FanWing Is Like A Harvester In The Sky

The FanWing aircraft concept has been around for a while but this is the first time we’ve seen working models. It gets rid of the propeller and adopts a rotating cylinder for propulsion. The look reminds us of a combine harvester and in a way it does reap the air, pulling the craft through the sky. We’re not holding our breath for the decommission of jet propulsion in the wake of this method, but we’d love to see some fun-loving death from above whenever you can get your own off the ground. Check out the video clips after the break to see, and hear, this in action.



[Thanks I]

44 thoughts on “FanWing Is Like A Harvester In The Sky

  1. Very interesting project. As Pat Peebles himself says, it doesn’t look like it should fly.

    He mentions that the goal is “high lift at slow speeds”. It doesn’t seem appropriate to compare this to an airplane. I’m more interested in comparisons to helicopters. It seems like it might be more efficient as it might glide. Would it be more stable as it has fewer axes of movement?

  2. Good luck scaling up that propulsion “rotor” and the motor that drives it.

    RC is great fun – but it’s hardly a reliable test bed (except at the most basic of levels) for full size design since they do NOT scale up and maintain the same power/control/weight/flight characteristics.

    And 30kph is hardly “slow” for a UAV.

  3. I am stunned at the short take off and land distance for a A/C of that size. Even if accounting for the long grass… which for many models would have meant “flip – crash” on take-off!

    That rotor looks like it would be tough to balance though.

    Nice to see something unique!


  4. as vonskippy stated, small-scale R/C stuff doesn’t scale up well. I’m interested in the gyroscopic effects of the propulsion medium – especially in larger scales.

    certainly an interesting concept however – well-played!

  5. I’m thinking variable geometry wing:
    – For slow flight, takeoff and landing, use the rotor to generate high lift at low airspeed.
    – In flight, if high speed is required, either sink the rotor into the wing or lift it up above the wing into a separate fairing, fair over what’s left of the existing wing to make a more standard airfoil shape, and use a propeller and go faster.

    It’s all about the faster except when you need to go slow.

  6. If you have enough air moving over the air foil you could (in theory) take off vertically…put the wings on a kind of pivot that you could control and you could have an osprey style that would be A LOT more safe since all flying in a plane style but not helicopter style is about getting enough air moving over the air foil. Sorry I’m rambling here.

  7. I wonder if this device, once airborne, could drop a cable, hang in the wind like a kite and harvest energy using its electric motor (to be transported down the cable). A true combine-harvester ;-) At higher altitudes there is more wind and you don’t need a structure as in a wind turbine.

  8. Uhh I remember seeing some teenager designed this exact flying harvester design back in the eighties, he was Australian and on local tv here.
    Odd, he probably forgot to patent it and Mr Pebbles became the inventor, not that I am decrying the Welsh… see my name.

  9. “primarily designed for urban surveillance, flying up and down streets at slow speeds.”

    …This does not bother any one else?
    A side from the obvious “big brother” idea,
    That would be some NOISY equipment to have going down the street all day.

  10. “That would be some NOISY equipment to have going down the street all day.”

    I was thinking the same thing.

    Also, do you think this thing can glide? Or will it drop like a rock as soon as the motors shut off?

  11. “That would be some NOISY equipment to have going down the street all day.”

    Urm i’m not being funny but cars aren’t the quietest of things and they’re already going down streets all day in far greater numbers.

  12. What’s the benefit? Flying very slowly yet staying aloft. Short field take off and landing with heavier loads, being able to land big planes in little piss-pot airfields like Haiti (just an example).

    As a licensed pilot, I find it a little insulting that he’s calling the guy with the RC transmitter a pilot.. just a quibble. Kind of like someone picking up a scalpel and being called a doctor.

  13. I was wondering as well how they’d be able to scale it up to a “legit” aircraft but upon thinking about it, it might actually be pretty easy to do so on a smaller-than-commercial scale.

    I would like to know more about the weight of the fan(minus motor) versus the weight of the airplane(including the motor) because that would better indicate how well it would scale with common materials. I mean the first video showed one with what I assume is a fan made of balsa wood so perhaps one only needs to find the proper ratio of number of fan blades, blade angle, and fan diameter along as well as fan speed to move the proper amount of air without causing undue stress on the components. So maybe it’s better to have more/smaller fan blades than only a few larger ones.

    I say this because I’ve got a plastic paint mixer that has the same type of design and the plastic is strong enough to work under a load that would be comparable to moving an aircraft with a heavy load. So it seems using modern materials might give better benefit.

    The gyroscopic effect would increase the stability enough that it would make it a great design for personal/experimental aircraft.

  14. If you’re planning on using the aircraft as a drone, I’d have thought resilience would be fairly high on the wish-list – but there’s a huge target area in that rotor that pretty much guarantees a kill if you hit any part of it with the design they’re using now.

    On a fairly small scale, it might be possible to mould the rotor in one piece from styrofoam then coat it with something to hold it all together in case of a piecing impact – that might make a bullet-hole or two survivable as it would only be off-balance by whatever a cylinder the same calibre as the projectile and the same thickness as the rotor weighed… it might vibrate a bit but it shouldn’t fall straight out of the sky.
    A machine-gun burst or shotgun would still floor it, but a stray pistol shot shouldn’t.

    If the weight can be kept reasonable, multiple shorter rotors would be easier to balance, easier to replace when damaged, and if you lost one altogether flight may still be possible..?

  15. RepRap

    would make building custom blades trivial and allow for clever tricks such as encasing the motor within the frame.

    hint:- nice bearings can be obtained from the WEEE bins in the form of dead PC power supply fans, and a suitable motor to boot.

  16. @Richard you could always take it out with a high powered waterhose, or at least obstruct its vision, if that’s your thing.
    but it would take a helluva uav to stand up to a firetruck water blast.
    i would like to build a flying saucer-shaped craft, i could draw it, how it would work. central hub, with fan-blades at base, maybe top too, to make the central hub provide lift if it spins, then a disc around it, which is a giant fan sort of thing, all the blades at the mirror angle of the central ones. and of course an outer ring to protect the blades.
    but would it work?
    maybe if instead of just blades on top and bottom, the whole thing is composed of 3 fan-discs, the outer 2 facing the same direction, and the inner blades facing the other way. that way, no matter whats spinning, rotor, housing or both, you always have lift. unless you throw it in reverse.. High speed falling dangerous object, with camera at very center facing straight down, so you can accurately aim your landing / smack attack ;)

  17. it would be like -/\/-
    where / & / rotating v and \ rotating ^
    i guess i could have just said i want to build a set of counter-rotating blades with a protective ring around the perimeter. that’s pretty much all it is. dangerous, unsteerable except up, down, and stop, which also=down.

  18. @ jeditalian Let’s think out loud about that… we might inspire somebody to fiddle. :-)

    You can control something with rotating ‘disk’ blades pretty easily.

    If the blade-disk was a little bit flexible, then stick small bearings on the leading and trailing edges of each blade-tip… if there’s a hardened ring above to act as a stabiliser under heavy stress, and a ‘moveable’ ring below that can squish the blades a bit between the two rings and lower the pitch – two servos are enough to do that – then you’ve got cyclic pitch control that acts on the blade tips rather than a complex centre hub.
    Alternatively, the movable ring can go ‘between’ the bearings to force larger pitch. That’s got the potential to give more lift at the expense of losing some protection against negative ‘G’.

    Under hover conditions the tip-bearings don’t need to touch anything, you can control rise and fall with rotational speed.

    Something like that ought to be relatively simple to synchronise for a multi-rotor machine too?

    Can anybody push that idea further?

  19. As a private pilot and RC flyer, I wonder how well it does in the rain? Snow? Hail? If one of those small blades breaks, then you will have one heck of an imbalanced system. this begs the question of glide slope. I’ll bet it has very little.

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