The field of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft has seen a flurry of innovation, but one design is generating remarkable buzz. Pterodynamics has scaled up its Transwing eVTOL prototype, showing how its unique dihedral folding wing system could revolutionize vertical and cruising flight. The Transwing platform aims to solve some of the most challenging problems in eVTOL design, from optimizing wing efficiency to maximizing ground and helipad space.
Advantages of the Dihedral Wing System
Transitioning eVTOLs typically share the capabilities of drones and fixed-wing aircraft: they can take off and land vertically, and then transition to efficient forward flight supported by wing lift. However, most designs struggle to balance the conflicting requirements of wing size and ground space. Larger, wider wings are more efficient in forward flight but can be cumbersome for landing and take up substantial ground space.
Pterodynamics claims to have sidestepped these challenges with its unique and patented dihedral folding wing system. During cruising, the Transwing looks much like a conventional airplane, with its wings extended and propellers distributed along them. However, when transitioning to landing or hovering, the wings fold back against the fuselage thanks to dihedral hinges. These hinges tilt the wings upward as they fold, reducing the craft’s footprint during vertical operations. The entire process is driven by linear actuators and small struts extending from the fuselage, making it “aerodynamically benign,” according to the company.
Unique Features and Scalability
The Transwing X-P4 prototype has a wingspan of 4 meters (13.1 feet) and a fuselage length of 2 meters (6.6 feet). During forward flight, the aircraft utilizes only two propellers, allowing the other two to passively fold back until needed for vertical landing. This design allows the Transwing eVTOL to boast wider wings than many competitors without worrying about helipad space. For drone-style applications, it can be stowed in a compact box, fully ready for flight.
Pterodynamics has already been testing the X-P4 as a ship-to-shore logistics platform with the US Navy. The Transwing has shown promise in ferrying cargo more affordably than current solutions like Black Hawk helicopters or V-22 Osprey VTOL aircraft. The prototype can carry about a cubic foot of cargo within its fuselage.
Moreover, the Transwing concept is highly scalable. It could evolve into an air taxi capable of transporting 10 or more passengers from rooftop to rooftop. This scalability, coupled with its ability to transition almost immediately into forward flight, makes the Transwing one of the most promising and efficient eVTOL designs on the market.
Efficiency and Future Outlook
The Transwing’s ability to run larger wings than its competitors is key to its efficiency. The large wings allow it to transition toward cruise flight almost instantly upon takeoff, which could lead to more efficient use of battery power and a greater range. While exact figures for range and efficiency are yet to be publicly disclosed, the design undoubtedly offers potential for considerable gains in these areas.
As of now, the Transwing eVTOL is still in its prototype phase. However, its potential for more efficient cargo transport and scalable air taxi operations could make it a cost-effective alternative to existing solutions, especially when considering operational costs over the long term.
The Transwing eVTOL by Pterodynamics stands out as a potential game-changer in the rapidly evolving eVTOL landscape. It’s a design that many will be watching closely as it undergoes further testing and moves closer to commercial application.