The pan-European Neva Aerospace consortium, which is developing heavy-duty drones, industrial and commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and vehicles (UAV) based on its patented distributed thrust concept, has released the first OEM electric turbofan (ETF) to the aerospace market. These ETFs are claimed to be between two and four times as efficient as existing, standard electric ducted fans (EDFs).
The Neva Athena ETFs are a world first and are the only ducted fans optimised for static thrust and VTOL/STOL. A unique turbofan housing design further boosts the thrust without any compromise on weight saving.
The breakthrough technology of the Athena Series turbines will displace uncaged rotor blades in current commercial drone applications and will create exciting new possibilities for the development of the next generation of unmanned aerial systems.
Athena ETFs will be able to lift drones of more than 25kg with 10 turbofans across a surface of less than 1.5m diameter, according to Neva engineers.
The Neva technology is scalable nearly infinitely and limited only by the energy density of batteries, the capabilities of controllers and, as these technologies advance, the imagination and audacity of drone designers. Other models in the Athena Series are under final development and testing.
A is for Autonomous
Athena A – A for autonomous – turbines are designed for engineers who are working at the forefront of UAS design and are hungry for solutions to the limitations of dangerous uncaged rotor blades. The Athena series will provide robust turbofans for aeronautics and drones applications.
The combination of light weight and remarkable stability and yaw control, particularly so for the two-stage contra-rotor version, affords designers unprecedented options for multiple turbines to be used and controlled in synch, and offers increased scope for redundancy. The traditional EDF (electric ducted fan) has had a long history of use in conventional electric airplanes operating in linear flight mode, but until now those available on the market were only designed for linear flight (planes with a turbine air-entry speed ranging from 100km to 300km/h). Efficient VTOL operation requires a turbine designed for low entry air speed. The Neva Athena ETFs allow static flight with a speed close to zero and deliver high efficiency up to 6 g/W and maximal thrust up to 2.5kgf per turbine.
Robert Vergnes, Neva chairman and co-founder said: “The revolutionary market impact of static thrust turbo-fans for drones is akin to what the introduction of touch-screens was to smartphones. Neva’s static thrust turbines are easy to use, efficient, and enable developers to implement broader functionality.
“Athena ETFs are our first public release of OEM sub-systems. While the long-term Neva project is about developing complete heavy unmanned aerial vehicles, we are pleased to share this technology with forward-thinking members of the engineering community who have recognised that electric distributed propulsion is the future for safe and efficient electric aviation; such engineers are hungry for a game-changing innovation like this.
“The change will accelerate as the unmanned systems industry’s focus moves towards workhorse vehicles that can carry useful and economic payloads or undertake meaningful robotic tasks. Our own current development projects centre around smart cargo and robotic UAVs with take-off weights of up to 2 tonnes.
“However, until now, there were no electric turbo-fans suitable for the vertical and short take-off and landing (VTOL and STOL) that is required for operations in congested and restricted urban and industrial environments. We have now solved this problem and the technology behind the Athena series will catalyse our ongoing UAV development.”
Bringing the first Athena turbine to the OEM market is the result of more than four years of R&D by Neva Aerospace. The original design concept produced by Neva’s Head of Technology Laurent Martin has been refined through computational fluid dynamics conducted by Neva consortium member Schübeler Technologies GmbH.
Safety is intrinsic in the design of all Neva ETFs: there are no uncaged propellers and in some models internal redundancy is offered with 2 separate stages, 2 motors and 2 electronic speed controllers.
Professor David Brotherton-Ratcliffe, chief science officer of the Neva consortium said: “The high thrust density and high efficiency of Athena ETFs provide designers of VTOL and STOL systems with a new freedom to evolve their systems and bring their ideas to life.”
“The market is clearly in need for compact, safe machines that can carry economically-useful payloads. It now has the core component for such systems with Athena electric turbofans.”
Neva Aerospace is now offering two types of electric turbofans (ETFs). The first is a rotor-stator design referred to as “one-stage” and the second type of design is a twin-rotor counter rotating configuration referred to as “two-stage”. The net torque exerted by the turbine is optimised to be zero at a certain operating regime in the one stage design. In the two-stage design the net torque can be controlled conveniently by adjusting the power-ratio associated with the right and left-handed rotors.
Neva Aerospace chairman Robert Vergnes added: “The Athena ETFs are a milestone in drone development in general, and prove that we at Neva in particular are fulfilling our promise to investors that our powerful consortium model can and will advance through our roadmap towards the design and production of heavy unmanned vehicles and systems.”
“This is a paradigm leap from the million low-tech hobby drones that currently pepper our skies. It’s an exciting time to be at the serious, B2B end of this industry and in the vanguard of real change.”
“Many more breakthrough technologies will be released to the OEM market by the Neva consortium in years to come.”
Athena-1 V1.5 specifications:
- · Inlet Diameter 230mm (8 inch)
- · Weight from 600g to 730g
- · Thrust: from 1Kgf to 2.5Kgf with power from 170 Watt to 720 Watt (@4S)
- · Efficiency (Power Loading): from 6kgf/kWe (low thrust) to 3.5Kgf/kWe (high thrust)
- · Material: Composite
- · 2 stages
- · Counter rotating inner caged-propellers
All figures are given with a +/- 5% accuracy for Athena A-V1.5 (Sept. 2016). All thrust and efficiency figures are standard gross.
Source: Press Release