Helicopters are an example of VTOL, Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicles. This vast category describes a variety of craft capable of taking flight directly into the air without needing a runway. Many drones have incorporated VTOL capabilities, whether fixed wing aircraft or otherwise. Many subsets of VTOLs exist and innovative models keep hitting the market, showcasing their best take on VTOL drone technology.
My first introduction to the technology in jets was when I saw a Harrier Jet was at the Fort Lauderdale Air Show when I was a kid, way back in the 90’s. The plane hovered in the air right on the beach, spinning around before blastoff. The jets made a lasting impression a lot of the people on the beach that day. The pilots flew by the beach at top speed, ripping beach umbrellas twenty feet into the air. The movie True Lies featured a jet like this, displaying the planes ability to hover and change directions at will, it was cool.
The ability for aircraft to manipulate the thrust to direct the vehicle like this is called thrust vectoring. This technology has been integrated into many drone platforms, allowing for the ultimate in performance. Operators have more stability and better control in windy situations. Therefore, the drones are more useful to the end users.
One drone dubbed the Jackal built by a British company, Flyby Technologies is basically a fighter jet without the pilot. The prototype drone was manufactured in quick order, under six months, and has already demonstrated its ability to shoot multiple missiles successfully. Fighter jet pilots might soon find their careers in jeopardy, as humans are taken out of the danger zone. The costs are significantly lower than manned options. For this reason, the company hopes this to appeal to countries that can’t afford traditional fighter jets.
A2Z Drone Delivery specializes in providing the equipment to make drone deliveries successful. The company started out making winches for the drone delivery business, now has expanded upon their knowledge base, taking their data from countless deliveries to design their first VTOL drone. The UAV is equipped with their winch technology to securly deliver packages up to five kilos, eleven pounds. The drone is designed with low maintenance in mind, A2Z eliminated many of the parts responsible for failure. The RDSX Pelican is designed to be one of the most stable, secure drones for delivery.
Vayu Aerospace manufactures the G1 VTOL with a 13 foot wingspan. Aerovironment has a VTOL called the Jump 20 which offers a similar platform. We have discussed both of these companies at length in previous articles and will continue to follow the progress of these publicly traded companies. The government is interested in this class of drones for their advanced capabilities and modest price tags compared to alternatives. Many industries could find useful applications for these VTOLs due to their very long range and extended flight times. Agriculture, security, mapping, and surveying are just some of the many possible uses.
Wingtra makes the WingtraOne a VTOL out of Switzerland. The company recently raised $22M from investors to scale their operations for the global market. Autonomous mapping drones have the potential to transform the way many industries do business. The drones can cover vast areas and provide extensive data that is useful for operators.
VTOL drones are on the verge of carrying passengers, it is only a matter of time before we see functional highways in the sky. The technology is attracting investment dollars that have created some vehicles that border on science fiction. The productivity gained by reducing traffic congestion should open up more opportunities for commerce as people would have more free time. Maintaining autonomy over travel choices would be a boon for freedom.
The idea is for drones to solve problems, drones need to be designed with this purpose in mind. Clients want the longest flight times and software that will provide the easiest to use platform. The money will gravitate to the companies that offer the ability for the end user to be most productive. VTOL drones can operate in difficult environments and provide industries with the tools they need to accomplish anything from delivery to mapping. As manufacturers tailor their designs to meeting the needs of the end users, the more demand the industry will see.