Zee.Aero is working on a flying car concept that can take off and land vertically using a plethora of small electric motors turning four-bladed propellers. According to illustrations included with the patent filings, one version of the vehicle is narrow enough to fit into a standard shopping center parking space.
The Zee.Aero design sees wings mounted fore and aft, with the payload area mounted in between. This arrangement is called a canard wing, with the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer mounted on the front of the aircraft instead of on the tail. On the top of this compact wing arrangement are a number of electric engines turning fat, four-bladed propellers.
This group of engines, which from the illustrations seems to number eight, can use battery power to lift the aircraft vertically for takeoff. Then two vertically mounted engines provide forward thrust until the wings have enough air traveling over them to provide lift. The small vertical engines can be shut down then for an efficient cruise flight.
The large number of propellers are to provide redundancy in the case of failure.
This vehicle design is being led by Ilan Kroo, an aeronautics professor and NASA scientist who has founded Zee.Aero and is listed as the inventor on the patent applications.
A safe, quiet, easy to control, efficient, and compact aircraft configuration is enabled through the combination of multiple vertical lift rotors, tandem wings, and forward thrust propellers. The vertical lift rotors, in combination with a front and rear wing, permits a balancing of the center of lift with the center of gravity for both vertical and horizontal flight. This wing and multiple rotor system has the ability to tolerate a relatively large variation of the payload weight for hover, transition, or cruise flight while also providing vertical thrust redundancy. The propulsion system uses multiple lift rotors and forward thrust propellers of a small enough size to be shielded from potential blade strike and provide increased perceived and real safety to the passengers. Using multiple independent rotors provides redundancy and the elimination of single point failure modes that can make the vehicle non-operable in flight.