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Verticopter: Blender Designed Vertical Aircraft

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Here's something we don't see every day, a professional aircraft prototype designed using Blender. Daniel Klaue has been working with a start-up aircraft company from Mountain View, California, to design a new type of aircraft that takes off vertically.

As a student of aerospace engineering I found this particularly interesting. The Verticopter is a hybrid between modern planes and helicopters, giving the added freedom of vertical takeoffs. The hybrid comes in several different types including UAV, Remote Controlled, 2 seater and 7 seater.

Daniel explains:

"I used Blender to design and model the airplane according to what I thought would be a good blend
between looks and performance"

You can see the main site here, which features a lot of information and pictures, along with a very interesting feature video which sums up the Verticopter and the overall project, something definitely worth watching.

Along with the videos and pictures there's also a flight simulation available, which lets you take the Verticopter for a flight yourself using the X-Plane simulator. Unfortunately you have to pay for each different version of the Verticopter in order to fly it, but there is a free demo version which lets you fly for up to 10 minutes each time you start the simulator. You can find the demo at the X-Plane download page.

There's also a bunch of rendered videos on Daniel's youtube channel, which have all been rendered in Blender 2.46.

*Updated image of the Verticopter*

40 Comments

  1. Interesting, but I do not see how that thing can possibly keep its balance while transitioning, I mean it only has one point of thrust, the V-22 Osprey has a hard enough time doing it with two points to maintain its balance. Maybe they use the thrust from the drive turbines to get it started horizontal before transitioning the main rotor.

    I want to see the real thing flying and not crashing before I get happy.

    Oh and since im in a pessimistic mood, the name "verticopter" is supposed to mean vertical wing, but since vertical is latin and opter is greek it makes no sense what so ever, it just makes me think its short for vertical helicopter, as opposed to a horizontal helicopter...ha, well it makes me laugh.

  2. @DeMon

    "Interesting, but I do not see how that thing can possibly keep its balance while transitioning."

    I guess the main heli can rotate... (I mean it has two rotation axis) ;) Isn't it?

    My favorite color is the blue one.

    Congratulations to Daniel! Nice job!

  3. If this were any serious, it would have been planned in a real CAD application, because simulation of the physics involved is far more important than a pretty render. If you ask me :)

  4. the 3D modeling is awesome, and the video as well, but I have to agree I don't see this taking off the ground unless they use some very powerful and light engine, but I don't believe those can be made yet and still have enough fuel to fly a long distance

  5. gat -

    If this is being designed by an aircraft company, I'm sure that they are more than confident that this thing can more than just get off the ground. Let's leave that to the professionals instead of "passing the ignorance" by mere speculation. I'm sure that they know what they're doing.

    - Leo

  6. @EmailMeForMore: I guess that I should have articulated my issues with it better and I just thought of a perfect analogy to describe it. While thinking it up I realized my problem is not with the lift but with its center of gravity.

    Think of a plate of cookies (you do not want to spill them), the vertiplane's design would force you to lift the plate up by using your finger under the center of the plate (in other words near impossible, or need more fingers).
    A normal helicopter allows you to put the plate of cookies in a bag sealing the top of the bag together at one point an using that point to carry it, one point of lift is more than enough because the weight is under that point ensuring stability.

  7. @Leonardo: man, I knew somebody would say it sooner or later "people shouldn't speculate because you are not professionals in that field" or something along those lines, and I wish that I had seen your comment before posting because it really fires me up when I see something like that.

    Listen and listen well ! Discussion: rational, irrational, or speculative is not "passing on ignorance" it is one fundamental way towards intellectual discovery, even though not all discussions do reach that level of importance...

    Not wanting to discuss or even considering other topics beyond your proven knowledge is TRUE IGNORANCE.

  8. "...to design a new type of aircraft that takes off vertically."

    While the specific design they're using would be new/different, we've had aircraft that can take off vertically for a while: They're called VTOLs or Vertical Take Off and Landing.

  9. Thats an interesting design. Reminds me a bit like the osprey helicopter/air plane way of providing lift and then thrust. But a 2 seater aircraft? Who in the world would you market something like this to? Just a thought.

  10. @ Everyone
    On Daniels youtube channel you can find a video of a R/C version of the Verticopter, demonstrating that the design does actually work and how it can fly quite well.

    Also the model is imported into the X-Plane simulator, which is very realistic simulation that takes into account for every piece of geometry etc. If it works fine in the X-Plane then theres a very good chance that this will work in reality also.

  11. The engines exist but not really economically... more to the point is noise and (the finger cooky analogy is true) the amount of computing hardware needed just to balance the thing. Remember though its not a human balancing it. I mean one of those personal scooter things that people ride on could do the balancing on this... It should work but it would be very very noisy and i can't see the efficiency?

  12. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I see two helicopter-blade fans or whatever they're called. Presumably they both provide lift as well as counter-rotaional stability. If the plane is fairly light and motor strong, I suspect it would fly fairly easily.

    Congrats, Blender, for the design.

    Whatever happened to BlenderCAD by the way!?

  13. Think of it as kind of a flying segway, which basically has similar issues regarding the balance point but still manages to not tilt over due to the computer controlled balancing ;)

  14. Some points of speculation have been addressed already by other readers. Let me quickly address some other issues.
    1. Today, the Verticopter RC Prototype has performed 9 hours of test flights on the NASA AMES air strip, and the Discovery Channel Canada team was filming it. It had many very successful flights, and a ton has been learned about the design. More videos to appear soon on youTube, and also on Discovery Channel. (The plane you probably saw on Discovery Channel was most likely the AMV-211, another plane that I modeled in Blender and used to skin an X-Plane design with).
    2. It's been mentioned, and I'll mention it again: X-Plane is a serious tool for flight prediction. Of course, inaccurate data can be entered to make engines stronger or lighter than in reality, but we have taken the specs of the RollsRoyce 250 series of turboshaft engines, and entered their specifications to the T, and left plenty of room for unforeseen conditions.
    3. The concerns about stability are semi-warranted. In its "cheapest" form, this aircraft is capable of SHORT take-off and landing, but can do vertical take-off and landing with slight head-winds. The issue at hand is control. Control is accomplished through airflow over the control surfaces (elevons, rudders, etc.) This has been the functionality of the prototype, but for full-blown large manned aircraft, a puffer system will be utilized. These systems are employed by VTOL planes such as the Harrier Jump Jet. This puffer system emits jets of compressed air on the plane's wing tips and extremities, to maintain balanced control during hover, even in the absence of airflow over the control surfaces.
    4. An on-board computer is a given for this design, and artificial stabilization systems are widely available. Gyroscopes determine the plane's attitude (flight position), and a computer merges the pilot's inputs with the data from the gyroscopes to accomplish the desired flight path.
    5. There are significant parties interested in this design, and the differences it has with the Osprey are actually its strengths. It is not a device intended to replace the Osprey. It has a different niche in the market.
    6. The model made in Blender is a high precision "skin" that is used to cloak the rather rudimentary X-Plane flight model. I had to model this plane twice: once in PlaneMaker, which dictates the plane's flight characteristics and aerodynamic behavior, and once in Blender, to give it its appealing form. The screenshots are all in-flight screen captures of the actual plane flying in X-Plane. No ray-tracing involved. PlaneMaker is the "CAD program" in this case, and it does all the background aerodynamic calculations... and it does so very well. When the RC prototype was tested in X-Plane, there were many lessons gleaned from the flight behavior accomplished in X-Plane that prevented catastrophes from happening in the "real world." Other aircraft, such as the Cirrus Jet, the CarterCopter, and Terrafugia have used X-Plane to validate their concepts.
    7. Before this airplane goes into full-scale manufacturing, it is a given that a team of different engineers will conduct further calculations and refinements... but as one notable engineer has pointed out, the design is about 80% "there." This man is currently working on the Boeing 787.

    For more information, you might be interested in reading the user guide for the X-Plane model. Go to this link:
    http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?autocom=downloads&req=download&code=confirm_download&id=5685

  15. Very nice idea!!
    But very bad renderings!
    If YafRay doesn't help, use Maya or Max with MR or VRay!
    This would make it more professional!

  16. Thank you for showing this work. This really shows the potential of Blender in the area of not only model aeroplane design, but that of actual flyable aeroplanes.

    I have forwarded the link to this design, to a group for designing flying wings. I think they will quickly realise the potential.

    Regarding the actual design. I think it is a very good flyable design, with serious commerical potential.

    I wish you every sucess with this.

  17. @DeMoN: it uses puffer jets to keep its attitude, a well proven solution. Also, the lifting fan is located at the center of gravity which should lift it whilst keeping it stable and the fans are counterrotating, elminiating any torque on the craft.

  18. @Daniel Klaue: the only video's I saw on YouTube of the RC Verticoper were normal horizontal flights, no hovering or vertical landings / takeoffs. Have you done any tests in this regard?

    Your simulations on X-Plane give real credibility to your design, that will help enormously in commerical negotiations. You guys are doing in a couple of years what Moller couldn't do in more than 25 years of development.

  19. Thanks for the latest comments!

    Regarding the vertical take-offs and landings, the RC prototypes are in their earliest stages right now, and for safety reasons, no VTOL is attempted. Also, VTOL is possible only with favorable winds at the moment. The prototype is not yet equipped with a compressed-air jet-puffer system.

    Not all the pictures are ray-traced, and the one featured in this article is very old. I've requested a replacement picture to be posted. Most of the other pictures are not ray-traced, but direct in-flight screenshots.

    Regarding comments about the disc loading and noise: the JSF VTOL jet has a much smaller fan lifting a much higher load. There are also ways of silencing the props. Keep in mind, this is a niche product, and as such people will have to consider the benefits of this design worth the inconveniences. There are many people interested in a no-runway plane that tops out at 320 kts. Ferraris and Lambos are another example of such a niche product. They aren't necessarily silent, but then again, if you've got a car that can go 350 + km/h, and accelerate to 100 in less than 4 seconds, who cares about the roar of the engine? It actually adds to the experience.

    Now, we will not actually know how silent the Verticopter will be, and we'll just have to wait for the flight tests of a full-scale plane to be recorded. But I'm almost positive it won't come near the loudness of Moller's Skycar tests. :)

  20. @Daniel Klaue what are you using to drive the RC prototype? does an engine in a similar power to weight ratio exist for a full scale prototype, this seems very interesting. good luck with this

  21. In case you're referring to the shadows, the plane is in a hangar, and hangars have many lamps on the roof. The multiple shadows you see would be caused by these multiple lamps.

    The reflection is an indication of the floor's material, and was attained through the new "gloss" setting in Blender's reflection engine. Click on the link below to see a picture that shows similar lighting/reflective conditions in a real hangar.

    http://www.arinc.com/images/pr_amoc_hangar_large.jpg

    Note the multiple shadows, and the diffused reflection of this plane. The Verticopter has a blue underbelly, and therefore stands out more in its reflection than the plane in the picture above. The white plane's reflection hardly stands out in contrast to the white floor.

  22. I see they integrated the turbines in the tail, very nice. And they added big canards.

    I'm looking forward to seeing this thing fly IRL (in real life).

    The render is OK but I bet you can do a lot better with Indigo or Yafray.

  23. This will be a spectacular aircraft if it works well.

    No, it's not like a plate of cookies balanced on a finger. It's more like a plate spinning on your finger, without the cookies.

  24. A good idea ,but my question is u 'll use an electric motor or use cylinder engine,my suggestion is u use a 60 hp motor with a light weight battery,because if u use cylinder engines u have to use petrol or diesel or whatever........................which makes the verticopter heavy

    CONGRAGULATIONS TO DANIEL ...........only if u could give me one real one free

  25. Bjoern Friedrich on

    Hello, is there a good blueprint of the Verticopter to build it as an rc model? Unfortunately, I have been looking for the construction plan for a very long time without success.

    Hallo, gibt es einen guten Bauplan des Verticopters um ihn als rc Modell zu bauen? Ich suche den bauplan schon sehr lange ohne Erfolg leider.

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