The Unmanned Systems Asia and Rotorcraft Asia 2019 exhibitions and conferences, held from 9 to 11 April 2019 at Changi Exhibition Centre, brought together the best of both worlds in terms of cutting-edge technology. Aviation enthusiasts Chen Yan An and R Singaram went to have a look and bring you the highlights of the show!
The biggest highlight of the show was, of course, the future air taxi of the world, including Singapore - the electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) vehicle Volocopter, an 18 rotor electric vehicle that has both a manned and an autonomous version (without joystick). Volocopter’s endurance is 30 minutes, which is in the process of being bumped up to 1 hour. Furthermore, it has been designed to be highly stable with high redundancy of rotors - it only needs 4 rotors to keep flight and hence, can continue flying even if some rotors are damaged. With its air taxi system, it hopes to make cities like Paris, Singapore and Dubai more interconnected to drastically reduce traveling times.
The air taxi system, wherever it is implemented, will definitely add to the anthology of engineering marvels. The Volocopter’s biggest advantage is its noiselessness, which will greatly enhance its chances of obtaining permits to fly in cities. In fact, a Volocopter 2X within 75 meters distance is as quiet as the smallest helicopter within 500 meters distance, which is a factor of 7!
A few big questions still loom, though - one - whether Volocopter can find enough obstruction free spaces atop buildings to land in Singapore. Secondly, how does the company run a profitable business if the cost of air taxi travel is going to be as cheap as a taxi ride? Thirdly, how are the Volocopter and its passenger going to fare in a crash, a possibility borne out of dense building terrains in cities?
SRC also works with companies like Lockheed Martin that can provide high energy lasers/anti-drone systems to shoot down drones. They were at UMSA to exhibit their systems to big players like the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Armed Forces.
The most significant advantage of the tiltrotor is that it can better access hard-to-access areas including densely populated urban city centers, mountains, islands and far-flung areas without hospitals nearby. Whereas an airplane with high cruise speed and distance finds it hard to land in such areas, a helicopter that can access the area may not be able to travel long distance rapidly enough to perform the rescue and may need to wait for an airplane. Hence, AW609 brings the best of both worlds together to solve this problem - it combines vertical takeoff and landing in inaccessible areas with turboprop power, flying at twice the speed and 2 to 3 times the range of a helicopter.
Spanning 13.4m in length, the AW609 also has a pressurized cabin to fly at a higher altitude and is hence safer due to less turbulence and increased passenger comfort - vital aspects during medical rescue missions. It is set to be certified by the FAA by the end of the year and is already in mass production.
The sequel to this article will be bringing you more highlights from UMSA & Rotorcraft Asia 2019 so please do stay tuned!
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