Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Aircraft
An aircraft has a boom, a propulsion assembly coupled to a first end of the boom, and a first wing coupled to a second end of the boom. The propulsion assembly is coupled to the boom by a rotating joint. A second wing is optionally coupled to the rotating joint. The first wing is coupled to the boom by a rotating joint. The first wing is coupled to the rotating joint by a hinge. A vehicle with roll, pitch, and yaw maneuverability able to mirror the aircraft movements may be coupled to the second end of the boom. The vehicle body may be picked up with a vehicle chassis disconnected from the vehicle body. The boom houses an energy source to power the propulsion assembly. A rudder is coupled to the second end of the boom. A paddle is disposed between the propulsion assembly and the boom.
- 1. An aircraft, comprising:
a boom; a propulsion assembly coupled to a first end of the boom; and a first wing coupled to a second end of the boom.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
- 11. A method of transportation, comprising:
providing a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft including, a boom a propulsion assembly coupled to a first end of the boom, a first wing coupled to a second end of the boom, and a payload connector coupled to the second end of the boom; and providing a ground vehicle comprising a vehicle body and a dock disposed on the vehicle body; and picking up the vehicle body with the VTOL aircraft by attaching the payload connector to the dock.
- View Dependent Claims (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23)
The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/662,081, filed Apr. 24, 2018, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/810,901, filed Feb. 26, 2019, which applications are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates in general to transportation systems, and, more particularly, to a transportation system using an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to transport ground vehicles with active leaning suspensions and other payloads.
Traffic congestion is a major problem across the developed world and getting worse by the day. In all corners of the globe, people drive daily to commute to work, to shop, to travel cross-country for work or vacation, and for any number of other purposes. As populations grow in number and advance economically, more and more cars are added to the roadways. Two million passenger vehicles are added to the world'"'"'s roadways every year. For 2018, an estimated 81.50 million vehicles were produced globally, up from 79.02 million in 2017. The world'"'"'s infrastructure has so far not expanded or adapted to meet the growing demands.
One concept for reducing congestion is the introduction of self-driving vehicles. Self-driving vehicles can potentially communicate directly with each other and with local infrastructure systems to coordinate the speeds and locations of every vehicle on the road. Such coordination would allow for the removal and traffic lights and optimization of traffic fluidity. The introduction of self-driving vehicles en masse will allow drivers to reach their destinations quicker. However, an autonomous transportation future will not itself solve the congestion problem. Moving to autonomous vehicles does not reduce the number of vehicles on the road or increase the amount of space on existing highways.
Another proposed solution is to take commuting to the skies. In a concept similar to ridesharing, sky taxis in development will allow commuters to share a ride on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft between skyports spread throughout a metropolitan area. However, construction of hundreds of skyports in the hearts of cities around the world will cost billions and take decades. Once built, passengers will have to arrange transportation to and from skyports and process through security screenings. Moreover, due to their inefficient design, sky taxi aircraft will require full occupancy of between four and six passengers to remain profitable. Unless a commuter is flying between hot-zones at peak times, there will more than likely be a wait before boarding. Even worse, remote destinations with few potential riders will not be able to support a skyport. The sky taxi concept requiring skyports limits the destinations to only large metropolitan centers.
Therefore, a need exists for a transportation system that can truly reduce congestion on the roads while also expanding travel into the air without requiring a large skyport infrastructure.
Skyboom 52 operates as the fuselage of eVTOL 50. The standard skyboom 52 will be 40 feet in length to support a combined wingspan of 160 feet for upper wings 54 and lower wings 74. In the standard model, the combined wingspan of all four wings 54 and 74 is 100 feet: 60 feet for lower wings 74 and 40 feet for upper wings 54. Skyboom 52 houses fuel to power eVTOL 50. In the case of an all-electric eVTOL 50, skyboom 52 houses a large array of electric batteries. Standard battery weight for the all-electric eVTOL 50 will be 1,800-2,400 pounds, with an estimated total eVTOL weight of 3,600 to 4,000 pounds. The size, length, and battery capacity of skyboom 52 are all scalable as desired to meet flight requirements for a given situation. Skyboom 52 has a symmetric airfoil shape to provide a large battery storage capacity in a low drag structure. In hybrid embodiments, skyboom 52 can house both electric batteries and liquid fuel.
eVTOL 50 has two pairs of long high aspect ratio wings, upper wings 54 at the top of skyboom 52 and lower wings 74 at the bottom of skyboom 52. Upper wings 54 are optional, and some embodiments are capable of horizontal cruising with only lower wings 74. In other embodiments, smaller canards are used for upper wings 54. Rotating joints 56 and 76 allow wings 54 and 74, respectively, to rotate about an axis through the lengths of the wings as illustrated in
Rotating joint 56 allows wings 54 to rotate independently from each other. Rotating joint 76 allows wings 74 to rotate independently from each other. Rotating wings on opposite sides of skyboom 52 in opposite directions will effectively turn the wings into rotors to facilitate autorotation. Wing tips could be fitted with rockets to initiate autorotation. Rockets can be mounted directly to wing tips or within wing structure with plumbing to a wing tip nozzle. Autorotation can be particularly useful in reduced power or loss of power situations. In autorotation, the entire eVTOL 50 rotates in response to surrounding air moving upward relative to the eVTOL. In autorotation, skyboom 52 rotates about an axis through the length of the skyboom. An attached load could be geared through payload connector 80 to maintain set position or rotate in an opposite direction to induce a stabilizing effect.
Rotating joint 56 also allows rotor stanchion 60, and thus rotor assembly 64, to rotate relative to skyboom 52 as shown in
Rotation joint 76 allows connector 80 to rotate relative to skyboom 52. Connector 80 is attached to a circular rail or geared component within rotation joint 76 and powered by a driver motor and gears. Rotation can be passive, with a load causing connector 80 to remain hanging down vertically from rotation joint 76 as eVTOL 50 transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. When connector 80 is loaded and hangs down, the connector 80 stabilizes the flight of eVTOL 50 and functions as a tail rudder. When eVTOL 50 is unloaded, connector 80 can be extended upward or downward during horizontal flight as a vertical stabilizer. A locking mechanism can be used to temporarily disallow rotation of connector 80. The double-jointed design of eVTOL 50 with rotating joints at both ends allows counter-force to be applied to the propulsion system, reducing moments of instability during transition between horizontal and vertical flight.
The vertical design of eVTOL 50 with skyboom 52 provides a base structure to accommodate long folding wings 54 and 74 deployed from joints 56 and 76. Hinge 58 on joint 56 allows wings 54 to fold down onto skyboom 52, and hinge 78 on joint 76 allows wings 74 to fold up onto skyboom 52, as shown in
In some embodiments, upper wings 54, lower wings 74, or both can have a variable geometry. In one embodiment, hinges 78 allow lower wings 74 to sweep forward, in a similar rotation direction as classic variable sweep aircraft wings. Wings 74 would end up being oriented parallel to skyboom 52 as in
Paddles 62 are configured to control movement of eVTOL 50 by displacing moving air from blades 66. The paddles can be rotated about stanchion 60 to modify the direction that moving air is displaced relative to skyboom 52.
EVTOL 50 has high aspect ratio wings, an aerodynamic design, and large energy storage capacity within skyboom 52, which provide excellent efficiency and allows the eVTOL to operate for long periods of time before needing recharging or refueling. The efficient aerodynamic design of the eVTOL 50 structure in combination with the unobstructed air flow around the propulsion system provide greater cruise and top speed capability independent of the chosen propulsion system. The noise reduction attributes of the ducted rotor propulsion design coupled with the propulsion system'"'"'s location 40 feet or more above the payload combine to reduce noise levels. The location of the propulsion system and length of skyboom 52 allows for a long, efficient wingspan and larger diameter rotor blades 66, whether ducted or not. The simple design of eVTOL 50 helps streamline the manufacture of carbon fiber components. However, eVTOL 50 is so efficient that the aircraft could also be made out of aluminum and still fly long enough on a single battery charge to be commercially viable.
In one hybrid embodiment, a turbine or other heat engine is housed in the center of a quadcopter and used as a generator to power electric rotors in a rotor assembly. A center mass of the rotor assembly can house one or more small turbine engines or other heat engines powering multiple generators, alternators, or motors to supply electrical current to multiple electric propulsion motors with attached propellers to generate lift or thrust. A small startup battery can also be included within the center mass of the rotor assembly. Multiple propulsion motors or engines provide redundancy in case of partial failure. The propulsion motors can attach to the center mass via airfoil shaped arms. The airfoil shaped arms can be used to generate lift during horizontal flight. In some embodiments, telescoping arms are used to mount the multiple motors to the center mass. Seals or collapsible internal bladders can be used to increase or decrease the length of the arms to effect lift, utilizing waste air from the turbine. Bladders within bladders can be used to house fuel for the turbine engine.
To take off, blades 66 begin spinning to generate thrust. Once eVTOL 50 rises out of a storage tube, if used, and above any other obstacles, wings 54 can be extended with a large negative dihedral to help control the flight of the eVTOL.
Vertical flight can also be controlled by angling rotor assembly 64 at rotating joint 56. Paddles 62 can be angled in opposite directions to spin eVTOL 50 so that the rotation of rotor assembly 64 is toward the desired direction of flight. In some embodiments, paddles 62 are used to control eVTOL 50 in vertical flight, and upper wings 54 are fully deployed depending on weather and surrounding obstructions.
If more significant horizontal movement is desired, eVTOL 50 transitions to horizontal flight as demonstrated in
Coming out of the storage silo, both upper wings 54 and lower wings 74 are folded onto skyboom 52 with the leading edge of upper wings 54 facing forward and the leading edge of lower wings 74 facing backward. Upper wings 54 are mounted higher relative to lower wings 74 and can fold out first, once clear of surrounding obstacles. Lower wings 74 start to unfold as the aircraft gains forward airspeed.
In the transition sequence from vertical flight to horizontal flight, wings 54 and 74 are unfolded in such a manner as to reduce or minimize the operating load on the gear mechanisms within rotating joints 56 and 76 and hinges 58 and 78. Reducing operating load limits the electrical current draw of operating the joints and hinges via battery powered motors, increasing battery life both in terms of daily work cycle and overall life of the batteries. Reduced gear loading also increases long term cycle life of the gearsets, increasing the time between Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) teardown inspections.
eVTOL 50 in
eVTOL 50 is a fully autonomous flying vehicle capable of horizontal flight with vertical takeoff and landing. However, eVTOL 50 is only one element of the overall VTOL transportation system. The VTOL transportation system also includes a ground vehicle 130, illustrated in
In the VTOL transportation system, consumers have personal ownership of their own ground vehicles 130. Any vehicle manufacturer can manufacture vehicles with a dock 132 and sell a vehicle compatible with being picked up and flown by eVTOL 50. A consumer can decide to purchase a fancy luxury vehicle, a fast sports car, or a cheaper base model sedan, and each can be flown by eVTOL 50. A dock 132 should optimally, but not necessarily, be placed at the center of gravity of a vehicle. The attachment point within dock 132 may have gearing allowing longitudinal movement to allow optimal center of gravity location or adjustment to align with payload connector 80 of eVTOL 50.
An active leaning suspension, as illustrated in
Vehicle 130 can be manufactured with a vehicle body 134 that is separable from a chassis 136 of the vehicle as shown in
Chassis 136 can be made universal and either privately owned or corporate owned. Corporate owned chassis 136 can be made available for short-term lease similar to a ride-share system of today. Leasing a chassis 136 at a flight destination allows the user to fly in their personally owned body 134 without their personally owned chassis to reduce the flight cost.
Either privately owned or corporately owned chassis 136 can be made available for other uses when not in use by the owners. The universal chassis 136 may be used to transport a variety of top structures or bodies utilizing the receiver hitch locating slots at either end of the universal chassis. Several examples are shown in U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/662,081, filed Apr. 24, 2018. Examples include attachments to provide a variety of services, such as snow plowing, street sweeping, garbage pickup, package delivery, etc. Decoupling of body 134 from chassis 136 when not in use also allows automobile bodies to be stored vertically in automated facilities or on roof-tops via robotic arms at the destination to reduce curb parking. Removing chassis 136 allows attachment of a storage container below body 134 in place of chassis 136 for flights where luggage or other cargo is needed. The storage container could also be used as a landing base to drop body 134 off without chassis 136. Aerodynamic design considerations to the under-vehicle storage container would make it suitable for long-haul high-speed flight. Stationary cranes can be used to attach eVTOL 50 on top of ground vehicle 130 or another load. Cranes can also be used to move loads for shipping, or to move vehicles when not in use or in the way of traffic, walkways, etc. Parked vehicles can easily be relocated via attachment to dock 132 when not in use.
Due to the high efficiency of eVTOL 50, vehicle 130 can be formed from aluminum rather than the carbon fiber normally required for flying vehicles. Production using aluminum reduces cost and increases potential production volume. Constructing vehicle 130 from aluminum instead of carbon fiber allow for the high volume manufacturing techniques needed to produce vehicles in the millions—accelerating the transition of the transportation system as a whole to eVTOL capable automobiles. In some embodiments, chassis 136 is formed of carbon fiber to reduce weight and make flying with the chassis more efficient.
The narrow body of vehicle 130 improves aerodynamics for both driving and flight when combined with eVTOL 50 and is possible thanks to the leaning suspension being used. Vehicle 130 is capable of leaning into turns to counteract centripetal forces that would otherwise cause a vehicle with such a narrow wheelbase to roll. Vehicle 130 uses much of the technology disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 16/138,849, filed Sep. 21, 2018 and published as U.S. Publication No. 2019/0084638 on Mar. 21, 2019 (the '"'"'849 application).
The leaning suspension operates hydraulically as discussed in the '"'"'849 application. Leaning is actuated by hydraulic shock actuators 140 moving upper control arms 141 horizontally relative to lower control arms 142. Each of the front and rear suspensions is formed around a center block 143 attached to a chassis block 144. Chassis block 144 houses batteries to operate chassis 136. The simple design of chassis block 144 simplifies manufacture, allowing carbon fiber to be wound on a long mandrel. The torsional stiffness of the block 144 structure will reduce weight. The block shape simplifies battery pack construction and replacement, as well as coupling and decoupling chassis 136 to body 134. Increasing volume is important to allow for electronics and battery while providing proper clearance needed to turn the wheels.
The leaning suspension of chassis 136 can operate with the electric motors from the '"'"'849 application on all four wheels, or with the hybrid propulsion having a gasoline motor driving the rear wheels. However, the most useful embodiment is having electric motors integrated into the hubs of all four wheels as shown in U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/662,081, filed Apr. 24, 2018. The four-wheel hub-drive and four-wheel steering improve vehicle control, both on and off-road. The active suspension and four-wheel steering also allow for much closer proximity parking than conventional vehicles because the vehicles can spin about an axis through the vehicle to align with a thinner parking spot.
The leaning suspension design also improves high speed cornering ability. Vehicle 130 uses center of gravity shift to maneuver at higher speeds, reducing instability moments and allowing the vehicle to return to a stable trim state or state of equilibrium much more quickly after a turn. This control method allows the vehicle to smoothly and efficiently change direction without the long duration instability moment associated with conventional suspension designs. Rounded tires 145 of vehicle 130 allow for leaning and improve efficiency through reduced rolling resistance. Battery size can be reduced accordingly. The lighter weight and low drag coefficient of the narrow vehicle 130 allow further reduction in battery size.
The active long travel leaning suspension technology'"'"'s unique geometry design proportions liquid within the supporting hydraulic shock actuators 140 to maintain vehicle equilibrium (stable trim state) during cornering events and independent wheel events within the design envelope, i.e., suspension travel. Disproportionate leverage changes in suspension geometry from the neutral control arm 141 position coupled with the nonlinear collapse of the hydraulic shock actuators from the neutral control arm position provide proportional loading of the chassis and wheel to stabilize the sprung mass during cornering and other dynamic event scenarios. Unique to the design is the inability of the shock actuators to completely collapse as independent components due to internal volume discrepancies between gas and liquid chambers. Additional changes to dynamic spring rate can be made by varying the percent of liquid to gas respective to their independent chambers within the shock actuators, resulting in an increase or decrease of applied load. The liquid side of the shocks can be overfilled to impart unique leaning attributes onto vehicle 130.
The leaning suspension also allows significant reduction in overall vehicle weight. Leaning keeps the applied loads perpendicular to the wheels so that the design primarily needs to manage loads only along a single axis. The reduced need to design for side loading of components significantly reduces the overall vehicle weight.
Vehicle 130 has the ability to turn and drive all wheels independently in either direction. The ability to turn and drive front and rear wheels in opposite directions allows the vehicle to spin around a set vertical axis. Vehicle 130 has auto stabilization that automatically operates the front and rear suspensions to keep the vehicle stable relative to gravitational load. However, vehicle 130 is normally stable and can be driven manually, with or without the stability control system.
Vehicle 130 can be fitted with airlift tie down eyelets at the front and back. Eyelets can be used to attach a variety of tools both powered and passive. EVTOL 50 could use the eyelets as an attachment point. Vehicle 130 can have linking capability, to link the vehicle with either other similar vehicles or trailers into a train. When linked, the multiple vehicles or trailers can communicate either wired or wirelessly to sync speed, leaning, stability control, and other suspension or driving operations. In one embodiment, bumpers 146 of vehicles 130 include electromagnet circuitry to allow the vehicles to be magnetically stuck together to form trains when energized rather than being linked by a mechanical component attached between two vehicles.
Linking into trains allows vehicles 130 to share electrical drive systems. Taking advantage of available shared voltage, vehicles could switch between motor drives to reduce thermal loading across available systems. Coupling vehicles for longer trips would reduce aerodynamic drag and further increase efficiency.
Military vehicles could have many possible configurations. One would include a robotic arm with a minigun, missile launcher, or other weaponry or optical equipment mounted to the front of the vehicle and slaved to the operators helmet movements. Ammunition for the weapon could be carried at the rear of the vehicle and fed forward. The gun could also be operated manually. The leaning suspension technology can be scaled to accommodate larger enclosed vehicle types, such as transport vans, busses, or delivery trucks. All vehicle manufacturing is scalable to meet any carrying, velocity, and range requirements.
The outboard leaning suspension design of vehicle 130 provides side impact crumple zone protection. Utilizing onboard sensors, vehicle 130 can position itself prior to a collision, either avoiding the collision altogether or minimizing impact through suspension collapse. Leaning into turns also reduces rollover accidents from sudden swerving to avoid obstacles.
The ability to actively control the position of vehicle 130 relative to a collision event can further reduce vehicle weight by eliminating or reducing forward/aft designed impact energy absorption zones. In a frontal collision, this could be accomplished by pitching the vehicle, e.g., extending the front suspension and collapsing the back suspension to deflect or absorb the impact forces in such a way as to better align the occupant to the incoming loads. The same could be accomplished in a rear collision by raising the rear and lowing the front of the vehicle.
If the electronic control unit (ECU) of vehicle 130 determines that a collision is eminent, by looking at position, velocity, and proximity in relation to itself and other vehicles, the ECU would position the vehicle in such a way as to absorb the impact forces and provide optimal protection to the occupants within the limits of its functional capability. Vehicle 130 would actively protect the occupants by leaning away from the point of collision. Vehicle 130 would then extend the suspension outward toward the impending impact to absorb and disperse as much energy as possible. The primary programed directive of the vehicle'"'"'s ECU would be the protection of the vehicle occupants and surrounding pedestrians. With enough computing power, the vehicle could determine its post-collision trajectory and final resting position. This would enable the vehicle to adjust its pre collision position to alter its final position.
In some embodiments, the leaning capability of vehicle 130 is manually controllable. In manual mode, leaning angle is controlled by the operator applying a mechanical load to sensors. Data recorded during manual mode operation, e.g., recording of applied loads on and relative positions of associated mechanical components through data acquisition, could be used in the programming of vehicles using semi-active or autonomous driving modes.
The software running on the ECU of vehicle 130 is connected to driverless sensor technology distributed over the vehicle. In some embodiments, a telescoping or folding sensor tower may be located on chassis block 144 or bumpers 146 and deploy during use of chassis 136. In other embodiments, sensors are located in bumpers 146. Bumpers 146 can be mounted using a receiver hitch style attachment mechanism of center blocks 143, such as the hitch receiver openings in the '"'"'849 application, to facilitate ease of replacement and maintenance. The ECU software can automatically change ride characteristics and vehicle attitude prior to a suspension event. Automatic adjustment of suspension characteristics provides a smoother ride than conventionally designed luxury automobiles. The ECU uses the sensors on bumper 146 and within the leaning suspension'"'"'s hydraulic system to balance or align gravitational and centripetal forces acting on the vehicle during auto leaning mode.
Hydraulic shock actuators 140 in the leaning suspension consists of a cylinder with a floating piston separating gas from liquid and an integrated damping valve on the liquid side to control flow rate. An integrated gas enclosure with adjustable pressure control features is attached on the gas side. The compound spring/damping system imparts additional adjustable spring and damping capability to hydraulic shock actuator 140. This system allows phase-in damping and spring adjustment to the supporting shock actuator above and below set shock actuator isolated values. Spring rate drop of the shock actuator on extension is dependent on gas chamber volume. Additional remote gas vessels or bottles can be plugged into the gas chamber of hydraulic shock actuator 140 via a hose connection. A floating piston stop determines the phase-in point of shock actuator. A mechanical spring on the gas side of the floating piston acts as an additional adjustment of the floating piston stop point. Liquid reservoir volume can be actively adjusted to impart varying spring and damping values with or without gas chamber assist or secondary damping.
The leaning suspension also uses a biasing pump to transfer liquid between the sides of the suspension, or between the front and back suspensions. The biasing pump is described in detail in U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/662,081, filed Apr. 24, 2018, which is incorporated herein by reference. The biasing pump is a direct volume displacement pump. The pump has four chambers separated by two geared racks driven by a single lead screw. The lead screw is driven via two opposing motors—either motor is capable of operating the pump. The chambers of the pump can move fluid independently or they can be linked together as needed. The lead screw helix of the pump is designed to impart various back-drive and load carrying attributes depending on the application. Pressure sensors within the pump chambers relay measurement data to the CPU to control motor current/torque to drive pump motors and set/maintain vehicle attitude. Sensors are also used to set pump pressure limits and direction. The pump is of modular design. Several pumps can be linked together in various configurations depending on the application.
A top-right port 1010B in
The biasing pump includes four different chambers 1020A-1020D, with one of the chambers connected to each of the four ports 1010A-1010D just described. The end caps couple the two chambers on the right together, and the two chambers on the left together. Other use cases include end caps that do not connect the chambers together. Geared racks 1022 are disposed within the biasing pump and are oriented left-to-right, one geared rack between the top ports and one geared rack between the bottom ports. The geared racks are driven left and right to transfer hydraulic fluid either in the left ports and out the right ports, or vice versa.
The two motors 1006 shown in
As a leaning suspension leans in either direction from neutral, both sides lose mechanical leverage. The biasing pump allows a biasing of the leverage by causing a disproportional collapse in the shocks. The shock on the inside of a turn can be collapsed and lose leverage at twice the rate of the shock on the outside of the turn. The biasing pump transfers load handling capability to the outer shock, which experiences most of the load from a turn. The biasing pump hooks up in between the two shock actuators and operates within the pressure differential between the two sides to transfer fluid volume from one side to the other.
Both geared racks are working to transfer fluid in the same direction in the system (i.e., from the left shock to the right shock or vice versa). The biasing pump end caps hydraulically couple the ports on each side together. Therefore, each shock actuator is coupled to an associated port of the gas chamber through the cap. The air pressure in gas side 1040 of the gas chamber applies force through the pathway of the end cap to the shock actuators. Excess hydraulic fluid is forced into fluid side 1032 of the gas chamber, and the gas within the gas side presses on the other side of a plunger 1034 in the gas chamber to force the fluid back out again later. The plunger within the gas chamber keeps the hydraulic fluid separated from the gas stored in the gas chamber.
There is no significant fluid communication between the left and right side of the system. The geared racks sit between the left and right shock actuators, substantially blocking fluid from the left and right side from intermixing. Therefore, if one side is damaged and loses fluid, the other side can still operate.
The geared rack moves hydraulic fluid volume left-to-right and right-to-left depending on the circumstances of the vehicle. The gas chamber is connected to the shock actuators through the biasing pump end caps. The gas chamber stores excess fluid from either shock actuator in cylinders illustrated below but does not bypass the fluid between the two sides. The excess hydraulic fluid stored in the gas chamber cylinders allows both shock actuators to fall at once, e.g., if the vehicle goes airborne fluid from the gas chamber flows to both shock actuators due to the load being removed from both. Both actuators pull in excess hydraulic fluid from the gas chamber and expand. The biasing pump by itself is not capable of expanding both shock actuators, because the biasing pump is only capable of transferring volume from one side to the other.
In other use cases of the biasing pump, all four ports are coupled and transfer fluid within two different systems without the gas chamber. The biasing pump caps can be formed without the ports connected so that fluid is not transferred between any of the four biasing pump chambers. For instance, in a four-wheel vehicle, a biasing pump can be coupled so that one geared rack transfers fluid between the front-left shock actuator to the rear-left shock actuator, while the other geared rack transfers fluid between the front-right shock actuator to the rear-right shock actuator. In that case, the two geared racks transfer fluid in two different systems in parallel, rather than a single system. Because there is no fluid communication between any of the four chambers, if one quadrant of the system is damaged the other three shock actuators continue operating properly.
In one embodiment, a four-wheeled vehicle includes two leaning suspensions. For instance, chassis 136 includes two separate suspensions, one at the front of the vehicle and a second at the rear of the vehicle. Each of the leaning suspensions includes a biasing pump and gas chamber combo for biasing hydraulic fluid left-to-right in the system. A third biasing pump without a gas chamber is used to transfer fluid front-to-back. The third biasing pump allows leaning of the vehicle front-to-back. The system with three biasing pumps limits fluid communication between the four quadrants of the system. There is no significant fluid transfer from left to right or right to left through any of the three biasing pumps, and no significant fluid flows across the middle biasing pump from front to back or back to front. The biasing pump uses geared racks to move hydraulic volume without allowing fluid intermixing.
The gas chamber operates as a secondary suspension system because the gas applies pressure to the system. The gas pressure also puts more fluid into the system when both sides fall. In one embodiment, the air pressure in the gas chamber is 600 pounds per square inch (PSI) or more. When a load is experienced, the gas pressure helps resist the load.
The gearing can be implemented as a replaceable module. The gearing can be mounted within the middle cover 1008, and then removed and replaced to modify attributes of the pump.
In one embodiment, the system is configured such that the floating pistons within the gas chamber cylinders will never bottom out. The vehicle chassis will bottom out on the ground before the floating pistons will reach their absolute maximum extent within the air chamber cylinders. The springs in the air chamber cylinders are for the rare case when, due to the terrain, the body is allowed to fall below the level of both wheels on a load input event, e.g., landing a jump. The springs soften the blow of the floating pistons hitting the bottom of the cylinders. The springs are very high tension and only compress at the very upper limits of actuator pressure. The springs are a safety feature to reduce the likelihood of parts breaking in extreme situations. In another embodiment, the movement of the vehicle'"'"'s suspension arms will physically bottom out before the floating pistons in the gas chamber cylinders bottom out.
Before the transitional flight sequence from vertical flight to horizontal flight can be initiated, the drone and automobile must be coupled together. Efficient pick-up and drop-off of a load requires fast and positive coupling and decoupling before power can be applied to lift the load to a safe transitional altitude. The design of eVTOL 50 with skyboom 52 places the propulsion system high above the load safely out of harm'"'"'s way, reducing the effects of rotor-wash, a significant advantage over other VTOL designs.
Payload connector 80 hanging down between eVTOL 50 and body 134 operates as a vertical stabilizer. Payload connector 80 includes an airfoil shaped portion, and an actively controlled telescoping shaft through the airfoil shaped portion. The airfoil shaped portion can rotate 360 degrees around the shaft to operate as a rudder. Vehicle 130 can also rotated around the internal rudder shaft to remain in a determined position relative to the wings or ground. This feature allows vehicle 130 to rotate 180 degrees to better place the passengers within the vehicle to absorb impact loads in the event of a crash. The feature also aligns vehicle 130 to the roadway when landing in motion.
The transition when loaded in
When chassis 136 is transported along with body 134, or a non-separable vehicle 130 is used, attitude adjustment and relative position of ground vehicle 130 and eVTOL 50 can be manipulated using gyroscopic precession of the ground vehicle'"'"'s wheels. Using all-wheel steering and all-wheel drive of ground vehicle 130, changing velocity, direction, and lean angle of the wheels will affect attitude of eVTOL 50.
A communication link between eVTOL 50 and ground vehicle 130 can allow the operator of the ground vehicle to take manual control of the eVTOL. A high current connection between the two vehicles would allow eVTOL 50 to charge the ground vehicles batteries in flight. Batteries of ground vehicle 130 could also provide additional current to eVTOL 50 in an emergency to increase available thrust. Electrical power and communication control connections are made upon physical connection between payload connector 80 and dock 132. A wireless communication method can be employed between eVTOL 50 and ground vehicle 130 before a hard connection is established to coordinate relative positions of the vehicles.
EVTOL 50 is designed to reduce noise issues. The length of skyboom 52 isolates vehicle 130 from the noise of rotor assembly 64, or whatever propulsion system is used, providing occupants with a quiet cabin. The height of the propulsion system also reduces noise and rotor wash at ground level, whether an open rotor, ducted rotor, or jet engine is used. The ducted design reduces noise further. Using larger diameter rotors will lower rotor tip speed, and thus reduce noise levels as well. The high rate of climb that eVTOL 50 is capable of helps reduce ground level noise around takeoff and landing zones.
During pickup, the hydraulic suspension of vehicle 130 is used to mirror and dampen connection moment loads. The suspension of vehicle 130 can autonomously mirror the roll, pitch, and yaw movements of eVTOL 50, making in-motion coupling easier than static coupling. Vehicle 130 aligns itself as necessary for proper connection between payload connector 80 and dock 132. Vehicle 130 can use the independent wheel hub drive and steering system to place the vehicle into proper liftoff and landing alignment and orientation. Payload connector 80 has a telescoping aspect that can make fine positional adjustments to connect with dock 132. Once in flight, the precessional torque generated by the spin angular momentum of the wheels of vehicle 130 can further assist in alignment and orientation.
Vehicle coupling, whether in horizontal flight or vertical hover, will have impact shock loads controlled or minimized by the hydraulic suspension. Mirroring the attitude, velocity, and other real-time movement of both vehicle 130 and eVTOL 50 in relation to one another reduces impact shock loads. Mounting a small multi-hinged folding robotic arm on the bottom end of skyboom 52, probably on the back side to reduce drag, would reduce the problem. On the end of the robotic arm would be an articulated pin. When eVTOL 50 and vehicle 130 are close enough together, within approximately 3 feet, the arm would reach out and attach to the top of the ground vehicle. Attachment would provide relative positioning information to the ECU, which would, in turn, control the movements of both vehicles through the mating process to positive coupling with a degree of mechanical assistance. The robotic arm would allow compensation for weather-induced alignment discrepancies and provide the control resistance necessary to ensure a fluid coupling sequence to mitigate impact moments. The robotic arm facilitates mirroring of automobile suspension and drone flight movements, to ensure precise and smooth coupling.
Sensors and wireless communication between vehicles will also play an important role for successful pickup. Sensors will include LiDAR, radar, and cameras on both skyboom 52 and ground vehicle 130 assessing the environment to ensure safe connection. Sensors onboard both vehicles may send data to the CPU to calculate variables ensuring automated coupling is within set guidelines or limits. Viable connection is ensured prior to the attempt based on the ground vehicle 130 load, ground vehicle operational status, eVTOL 50 and ground vehicle surroundings and flight path. A wireless connection set up prior to physical connection allows data transfer so that eVTOL 50 is aware of the real-time suspension status of vehicle 130, and has information about the vehicle weight and center of gravity.
Once successful connection is made, eVTOL 50 elevates vertically with vehicle 130 or body 134 in tow by increasing thrust from rotor assembly 64. In
A vehicle can be picked up from a standstill but dropped off in motion, or picked up in motion and dropped off to a standstill. Vehicle 130 can also be picked up from a mobile platform, such as a rail car, a platform on a magnetic track, or a flatbed trailer. Vehicle 130 can also be dropped off travelling in reverse to better protect the passengers. Reverse landing can be accomplished by eVTOL 50 rotating its wings backward, or payload connector 80 can provide the capability to turn around vehicle 130. Reverse landing may occur regularly, or may be an emergency procedure.
EVTOL 50 is designed for fully autonomous flight, but has either manual or augmented flight mode capability available. EVTOL 50 is normally stable, so manual flight without stability controls is possible. In early stages of the transportation system using eVTOL 50, remote pilot oversight of the system may be used. A single pilot could remotely monitor several drones as the system moves closer to full automation.
EVTOL 50 is designed for safety. The high glide ratio provided by four long wings 54 and 74 increases the chance of successful landing after loss of power, in addition to increasing efficiency in general. Both vehicle 130 and eVTOL 50 can have active or passive parachute systems to save lives and the equipment in case of more serious failures, e.g., in the event of a chemical, battery, hydrocarbon, or fuel fire. eVTOL 50 can be configured to separate lower wings 74 from skyboom 52 to allow the lower wings to stay with the ground vehicle and glide to safety. The precessional torque from the vehicle 130 wheels can control the aircraft attitude while the ground vehicle glides to safety using lower wings 74. Precessional torque can also be used to position the ground vehicle for impact if dropped with or without wings 74, or even with the entirety of eVTOL 50 attached. The universal attachment system of eVTOL 50 allows quick emergency evacuation by the closest eVTOL.
Head 156 of storage silo 150 is sized to fit rotor assembly 64, or any other propulsion system in use for a particular eVTOL. In one embodiment, rotor assembly 64 of eVTOL 50 rests on a bottom surface of head 156 when parked, and skyboom 52 hangs below the rotor assembly. A wider portion of cylinder 152 can accommodate paddles 62. In other embodiments, dock 154 supports the weight of eVTOL 50 at the bottom of cylinder 152, and paddles 62 can be contained within head 156. A lid 158 protects the inside of silo 150, including eVTOL 50 when parked, from rain and other weather conditions, local wildlife, or criminal theft or damage. A hinge 160 allows lid 158 to open for takeoff or landing of eVTOL 50.
Silo storage provides 24-hour on-demand service. Loitering eVTOL 50 are available for very quick pickup of a vehicle 130 that requests a flight. The ability for eVTOL 50 to loiter in airspace above the area being serviced provides for rapid movement of vehicles during high-traffic periods. Skyboom 52 holds enough batteries or fuel to stay afloat for an entire four-to-six-hour work envelope. Additional eVTOL 50 can be deployed from the storage silos as demand increases. Having a large capacity of storage silos 150 also allows eVTOL 50 to be deployed from the silos rather than loitering in the air during low noise hours or in low noise areas. Silo storage of eVTOL 50 provides 24-hour on-demand service.
In addition to being buried in the ground, storage silos 150 can be built into high-rise buildings at the city center as shown in
Body 134 or vehicle 130 can be stored within high-rise 170 in a similar mechanism. In one scenario, a woman works in high-rise 170. The worker hops in her vehicle and pulls out of the garage at home. An eVTOL 50 is loitering nearby and picks up the worker'"'"'s vehicle body via dock 132 when she indicates readiness. Once body 134 has been picked up, chassis 136 can automatically return to the worker'"'"'s garage if not contracted to be made available elsewhere. eVTOL 50 flies vehicle body 134 with the worker as an occupant to high-rise 170. Only vehicle body 134 is necessary, without chassis 136, because the worker is being dropped of at her place of work and the vehicle body will be stored at the same location. There is no need for the worker to drive during the day. The eVTOL automatically flies to a designated passenger drop off point for the worker to get out and walk to her desk. The automobile body 134 is personally owned by the worker, so eVTOL 50 takes the body and drops it off with a robotic arm extending from high-rise 170 designated for vehicles. If eVTOL 50 needs recharged or serviced, the eVTOL can fly to another robotic arm designated for parking of eVTOL.
During the day, if for any reason the worker needs to drive somewhere local to high-rise 170, a drone can retrieve her automobile body 134 and attach a leased chassis 136 for local driving. If the worker commonly drives during the day, she could have had eVTOL 50 bring her chassis 136 at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day, the worker orders an eVTOL 50 to pick up her automobile body 134, pick her up from the designated pickup location, and drop her off at home. The worker'"'"'s chassis 136 can automatically back out of the garage for parking of body 134 on the chassis. A variety of schemes can be implemented to expedite travel and improve convenient access.
Cities adjacent to waterfronts can store thousands of silos 150 locked together in floating grids.
The floating silos 150 can have power generation capability that powers the silos and recharges eVTOL 50 using wave power from the surrounding water. Power can also be generated from solar panels in lids 158. In one embodiment, each silo 150 in an array is totally self-sufficient and includes batteries to store wave and solar power for charging an eVTOL 50. In other embodiments, each silo includes a small battery, with one or more silos 150 totally dedicated to housing batteries for power storage without the capability to park an eVTOL 50. Silos 150 can transmit power between each other through electrical interconnects at locking mechanisms 174. Status information and other data can also be transmitted through electrical interconnects at locking mechanisms 174. One or more dedicated silos 150 could also be filled with liquid fuel to refuel jet eVTOLs 50 and hybrid eVTOLs.
The transportation system comprising eVTOL 50 with skyboom 52 will not require large infrastructure projects. The system may be aided by sensor placement along major thoroughfares to provide precise vehicle location. Personal ownership will spur automotive and aerospace manufacturers to increase production to meet demand. The highly efficient eVTOL 50 system will allow automobile companies to continue to use aluminum instead of carbon fiber in the manufacturing process. The use of aluminum is essential to retain the high-volume manufacturing techniques needed to reduce cost and accelerate demand—quickening the transition to passenger vehicles compatible with eVTOL 50. The layout of the carbon fiber eVTOL 50 structure is simple but will require strict adherence to aerospace standards of manufacturing to ensure safety. The narrow vehicle 130 design will effectively double road capacity as a solution to intracity congestion. Although it may seem counterintuitive, producing millions of eVTOL capable automobiles annually will quickly reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.
Splitting the flying vehicle into two portions, eVTOL 50 and ground vehicle 130, allows both to be optimized separately. The modular design provides a practical systems solution to eVTOL flight, equally supporting the needs of both industry and the consumer. The design provides on-demand seamless VTOL transport, encompassing most sectors of the transportation industry.
EVTOL 50 with skyboom 52 turns VTOL flight into a customer-centric affordable on-demand service. The design supports private ownership, enticing consumers to purchase new VTOL capable automobiles due to value-added capability, i.e., better ride quality, performance, and safety. One of the best-selling features will be the virtually silent flight experience via the remote propulsion system. Purchase of a new eVTOL capable automobile 130 will allow the owner to fly across town or across the state without issue or hassle. EVTOL 50 will eliminate the need to build airports—resources would instead focus on developing the flight control systems and air traffic control systems that will be necessary irrespective of chosen vehicle. EVTOL 50 with skyboom 52 combined with vehicle 130 solves the problems associated with urban transport VTOL, eVTOL, and ground transportation vehicles.
The modular design is capable of encompassing most sectors of the transportation industry. Multiple eVTOL 50 can be coupled together for metro bus service or larger delivery vehicles. One embodiment could be narrow-width taxicabs, as shown in
Spaceboom 210 is attached to dome 202 by a rotating joint similar to rotating joint 56 above. The articulated dome 202 is able to use thrust vectoring to change trajectory of VTOL 200. Spaceboom 210 provides room for liquid rocket fuel storage, as well as batteries for operation of the electronics.
Spaceboom 210 includes a wing tip retention slide 212 that can hold onto the tip of wings 74 in a delta wing configuration. That is, wings 74 are oriented parallel to spaceboom 210, and both wings lie in a similar plane extending out from the spaceboom. Slide 212 holds the tips of wings 74 against spaceboom 210, and rotating joints 76 allow the wings to flex and act as control surfaces. The dotted line wings 54 in
Vehicle 130 can be loaded as the payload for VTOL 200, or any other payload can be carried. Vehicle 130 can have a heat shield attached under the vehicle in place of chassis 136 to protect the vehicle during takeoff, flight, and reentry. A clevis joint 216 is used to carry the payload. A rotating joint attaches vehicle 130 to clevis joint 216, which allows the vehicle to rotate parallel to spaceboom 210 for travel as shown in
The large diameter dome 202 provides clean air flow into the ramjet engine 224. The adjustable inlet cone of ramjet engine 224 may be moved forward to close off the inlet for purposes of reentry. Exhaust gases from rocket engines 204 moving past the end of the aerospike bell 222 create a vacuum pulling air through the jet engine exhaust nozzle, located between the truncated aerospike bell and the longer “Inner jet-screen” allowing the jet engine to generate thrust at lower velocity. Given the size of the ramjet 224 inlet, the engine could operate as a Scramjet at higher velocity and altitude. Exhaust from the ramjet 224 outlet creates an inner boundary between the rocket exhaust and the fuselage, reducing temperatures on the fuselage. The inner boundary layer of air from the high velocity ramjet exhaust reduces thrust diffusion of the rocket exhaust that occurs with decreased pressure as the vehicle moves up through the atmosphere.
A second inner screen could be added to direct cooler air from an opening in the top of dome 202. The screen would be located on the inside of the rocket screen and act to further cool spaceboom 210 and the load. Dome 202 could also be fitted with rockets and a ram jet or rockets and air breathing jets without being an aerospike configuration.
Once launched, flight trajectory of VTOL 200 is controlled via thrust vectoring of the propulsion dome 202 through independent throttling of the aerospike nozzles located around the perimeter of the dome. Attitude of the spaceboom 210 and load relative to dome 202 is maintained via warping of the elongated delta wings 74 located on either side of the fuselage. Detachment of the wings leading edge from the fuselage allows the wing to fold out upon reentry, providing controlled flight back to the landing zone. Alternatively, VTOL 200 can parachute back to earth. In one embodiment, the load separates from VTOL 200 and each parachutes or glides back to Earth individually.
With heat shield 214 attached to the bottom of the gimbal mounted load VTOL 200 can reenter Earth'"'"'s atmosphere dome 202 first or load first. Wings 74 can stay in the locked delta configuration during reentry to control flight.
While one or more embodiments of the present invention have been illustrated in detail, the skilled artisan will appreciate that modifications and adaptations to those embodiments may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention as set forth in the following claims.