TRANSPORT MODULE

Disclosed is a transport module (1) for a vertical take-off and landing aircraft for transporting persons and/or loads, having a conveying pod (2) and a connection device (3) for connecting the conveying pod (2) to a flight: module (5). The connection device (3) has an elongate shaft (6), one end of which has a coupling device (4) and the other end of which is attached to the conveying pod (2).

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Description

The invention relates to a transport module for a vertical take-off and landing aircraft for transporting persons and/or loads, comprising a conveying pod and a connection device for connecting the conveying pod to a flight module.

Aircraft for transporting persons and/or loads are becoming increasingly significant, as they enable rapid conveying largely independently of infrastructure facilities such as roads, rails, bridges, tunnels, etc. This particularly applies to smaller aircraft able to take off and land vertically and therefore do not require a runway.

A modular aircraft having a flight module and a cabin is known from WO 2013/124300, implemented similar to an aircraft cockpit and disposed directly on the supporting structure of the flight module, for example by means of a pivot joint.

Also DE 10 2013 108 207 A1 discloses an aircraft able to be modularly assembled and disassembled and suitable for recovering persons or objects. The aircraft comprises a central module on which cantilever arms having rotor units and a support unit for transporting loads or a passenger transport unit can be disposed. To this end, the support unit or passenger transport unit is connected directly to the central unit with no spacing.

The modular aircraft known from the prior art have the risk of undesired contact of the person or load being transported with the nearby drive units, presenting a substantial safety problem.

The access area to the passenger transportation unit for a person to be transported is further limited by the proximity of the drive units.

The seating comfort for a person to be transported is also limited, because the design of the passenger transportation units is severely limited by the conditions of the remaining components.

Due to the proximity between the passenger transportation unit and the drive units, a substantial noise nuisance for the persons to be transported can be assumed.

The object underlying the invention is to disclose a transport module for a vertical take-off and landing aircraft which avoids or at least mitigates said disadvantages. The safety and comfort of the persons using the transport module or to be transported by means of the transport module are particularly intended to be improved. An improvement in aerodynamics would also be desirable.

The aim is achieved by the subject-matter of the independent claim. Advantageous refinements of the invention are disclosed in the subclaims.

The conveying pod of a transport module according to the invention serves for enclosing the persons and/or loads to be transported.

The connecting device of a transport module according to the invention serves for connecting the conveying pod of the transport module to a flight module. The transport module and flight module together form the aircraft.

The connecting device can be releasably attached to the conveying pod.

The connecting device comprises an elongate shaft. The shaft can be implemented as a straight bar having a rectangular cross section, for example, having edges rounded over the circumference of the bar, or having a round or oval bar cross section.

The cross section of the shaft can be preferably substantially rotationally symmetrical in design, for example having the shape of a straight circular cylinder, wherein the length of the cylinder corresponds to the length of the shaft and the base and top surfaces of the cylinder can also be referred to as the narrow side.

The shaft can preferably be as thin as possible, for example having a small diameter. A shaft design that is as thin and rotationally symmetrical as possible significantly reduces the mass and the air resistance of the shaft and thus of the transport module.

According to the invention, one end of the shaft, that is, one of the two narrow sides thereof, comprises a coupling device.

The coupling device is implemented for coupling to and decoupling from a flight module, thereby implementing a releasable connection of the shaft to a flight module. The coupling device can preferably be disposed axially centered on the shaft for improved aerodynamics. In addition, the axially centered arrangement of the coupling device minimizes the bending load on the shaft, for example when coupling to or decoupling from the flight module or when landing the aircraft.

According to the invention, the other end of the shaft, that is, the second of the two narrow sides at the end opposite the coupling device, attaches to the conveying pod serving for enclosing the persons and/or loads to be transported.

The conveying pod is formed so as to open into the narrow side of the elongate shaft. The narrow side of the shaft can be preferably disposed axially centered with respect to the conveying pod for improving the aerodynamics The axially centered arrangement of the shaft with respect to the conveying pod also minimizes the bending load of the shaft, for example when coupling to and decoupling from the flight module or when landing the aircraft.

The connection between the conveying pod and the shaft can preferably be rigid. For example, the conveying pod and shaft can be materially connected to each other, for example, welded.

The design of an elongate shaft and attaching the conveying pod to said shaft can advantageously maintain a particular distance between the conveying pod and the coupling device, and thus also between the conveying pod and a flight module coupled to the coupling device. The transport module and flight module together form the aircraft.

The shaft can particularly be elongate in design, such that a safe vertical distance of the coupling device above the conveying pod is established, so that a corresponding safe vertical distance can be ensured between the conveying pod and the flight module in the coupled state. The safe vertical distance can correspond to the length of the shaft and is determined such that an adult person using the transport module cannot touch the coupling device and a flight module coupled thereto while standing. The safe vertical distance can be at least 0.5 m, preferably 1.0 m, and further preferably 1.50 m, starting from a usable height of the conveying pod of 2 m, for example.

The safe vertical distance is selected such that a safety risk for the persons using the transport module is minimized, for example in that contact between such a person and a coupled flight module is avoided when using the transport module.

The sum of the length of the shaft and the height of the conveying pod can thus be at least at height of 2.5 m above a surface on which the conveying pod stands. The coupling device is and the flight module for coupling thereto are thus disposed at least above the potential reach height of an adult person standing near the conveying pod.

Safety in use can thereby be significantly increased, in that undesired contact between the person and/or loading acting or being transported and the flight module can be effectively avoided. Maintaining a particular distance also contributes to reducing the noise nuisance for the person to be transported.

Disposing the conveying pod spaced apart from the coupling device, and thus from the flight module also enables the conveying pod to be located outside of the downdraft of the propeller of the flight module, leading to a reduction in air resistance and improvement in aerodynamics

The concrete embodiment of the conveying pod can also be largely independent of the flight module, because no functional adaptation of is necessary with respect to the flight module.

According to various embodiments, the conveying pod can have an aerodynamically advantageous shape, for example, rotationally symmetrical or substantially droplet-shaped, so that the air resistance of the conveying pod due to flight operation and the influence of the flow about the conveying pod due to rotor operation of the flight module can be further reduced.

The droplet shape of the conveying pod can therefore preferably be extended substantially in the direction of the vertical center axis of the flight module in the flight condition of the aircraft.

The droplet shape of the conveying pod can open into the elongate shaft, that is, the conveying pod can comprise a lower, rounded region tapering into an upper, narrow region in the direction of the shaft.

The conveying pod can preferably comprise an attaching region for attaching the shaft for producing an advantageous, aerodynamic shape having a tapering cross section for transitioning to the cross section of the shaft.

The droplet shape can be reduced in the width, for example transverse to main flight direction, in order to generate the least possible air resistance during flight travel operation.

The transport module, preferably the conveying pod, can optionally have a stand device implemented for enabling secure positioning of the conveying pod on a base, such as the ground. The stand device can be implemented for folding in and out, so that the stand device can be folded close to the transport module or close to the conveying pod during flight in order to improve the aerodynamic behavior of the aircraft. The stand device can be made of metal, plastic, and/or a fiber composite material, for example.

The conveying pod can comprise opaque and transparent areas. For loading and unloading the conveying pod, or for boarding or deboarding persons to be transported, the conveying pod can comprise one or more, for example two, doors and/or hatches. Two doors can preferably be disposed opposite each other and be foldable or slidable in design in order to enable boarding and deboarding or loading and unloading simultaneously and conveniently.

The conveying pod can further preferably be implemented for closing tightly. This enables fast and economical climate control of the interior space of the conveying pod and protects the persons or loads to be transported against weather effects and wind blast.

If the conveying pod is intended for passenger transport, said pod can comprise seats and safety equipment such as safety belts and/or airbags.

The conveying pod can have climate-control devices, such as a heater, and lighting devices for increasing comfort.

Hardware and software can also be present in the transport module, for example for entering the flight destination; for communicating with the flight module, other aircraft, ground stations, or ground control stations; and for operating devices of the transport module or the aircraft, etc. For example, a status report of the aircraft or a state report about the loading or boarding of the aircraft can be communicated with a ground control station.

One or more displays for displaying flight information, status information of the aircraft, entertainment programs, etc. can also be present.

According to various embodiment variants, the conveying pod can comprise a charging module. The charging module can comprise one or more rechargeable energy stores, for example in the form of rechargeable batteries or supercapacitors; a charging device; and/or solar cells.

The charging device can be implemented for transferring electrical energy from an external charging station to the energy store or stores.

The energy stores can be implemented for storing the electrical energy transferred and/or self-generated by means of the solar cells, and for supplying energy to the conveying pod and/or the flight module for coupling to the aircraft.

The transport module can thereby be implemented in an autonomous manner in terms of energy, because the power generation can occur within the transport module itself.

If the flight module for coupling also has a dedicated power supply, then a current-carrying connection via the connecting device to the flight module is unnecessary.

The rechargeable energy stores can be disposed in and/or on the conveying pod, while the solar cells can be attached to the outer surface of the conveying pod.

In one embodiment, the coupling device can be implemented as a coupling counterpart of a hinged coupling between a coupling flight module and the transport module.

The coupling part of the hinged coupling is thereby disposed on a flight module, so that the transport module can be coupled to the flight module in a flexible direction and an angle and inclination setting between the flight and transport modules can be implemented in the various operating states.

The inclination of the transport module relative to the flight module can thus be varied such that, for example, a comfortable vertical alignment of the transport module in flight operation can be ensured even in case of a deviating control input for the flight module. By varying, that is, increasing or reducing, the inclination of the transport module relative to the flight module and furthermore relative to the surface of the earth, the flight experience for the persons to be transported can be improved and the securing of loads in the conveying pod can be dispensed with or at least made easier.

The coupling device can be implemented such that the inclination of the coupling connection, that is, the inclination of the transport module relative to the flight module, can be adjusted during flight operation as well and/or is automatically adjustable by torque compensation, for example in that the mass of the transport module, particularly the mass of the conveying pod, swings about a point of the coupling device implementing a floating bearing in the closed state.

The center of gravity of the aircraft can also be centered in a central region with respect to the flight module, so that the controllability and steerability of the aircraft can be improved. A torque generated by the persons and/or loads to be transported can be easily compensated for by implementing a hinged coupling, despite the spacing between the conveying pod and the coupling device provided by the shaft.

The coupling device can preferably be implemented so that correct coupling to the flight module is always ensured, under any operational load. Furthermore, said device can have a control mechanism for confirming a proper connection and a safety mechanism for manually releasing the connection in the unloaded state. The coupling device can have a damping device, for example implemented for absorbing the shock of hard landing impacts.

According to various embodiments, the coupling device can be controllable in design. This can advantageously enable remote control of the coupling procedure. The coupling or decoupling can also be performed dependent on various conditions. For example, decoupling can be possible only if the conveying pod is in contact with the ground. This can contribute to increased safety.

According to various embodiments, the transport module can comprise a fiber composite material or be made of a fiber composite material. The conveying pod and/or the shaft can preferably comprise a fiber composite material or be made of a fiber composite material.

The fiber composite material can be, for example, a fiber-reinforced plastic, such as carbon fiber, glass fiber, or basalt fiber-reinforced plastic.

The fiber composite material can comprise special textile fiber reinforcing elements. The textile fiber reinforcement can be introduced into a plastic matrix in the form of weaves, knits, fabrics, or meshes in laminar or web form.

The use of fiber composite materials implements an improvement of the ratio of strength to mass of the transport module, because the components made of fiber composite materials have a low mass and simultaneously good to very good mechanical properties, such as strength, elastic modulus, and impact resistance.

According to various embodiments, the transport module, preferably the conveying pod, can comprise one or more air guide devices.

The air guide devices can serve as lift and flight aids for increasing the efficiency of the flight module and for stabilizing and/or improving flow properties.

The air guide devices can be disposed in a stationary or displaceable manner The air guide devices can be implemented in a wing-like manner, for example in the form of a plate or slightly curved. The position of the air guide devices relative to the transport module or the conveying pod can optionally be rotationally or linearly displaceable.

In one embodiment, a wing-like, perpendicularly oriented flat plate can be disposed substantially parallel to the length of the shaft as an air guide device on a back side opposite a flight travel direction of the transport module. An air guide device implemented in such a manner can act as a tail unit of the conveying pod, maintaining the transport module in a stable orientation relative to the vertical or longitudinal axis thereof during flight.

In a further embodiment, one or more air guide devices can be disposed in the lower region of the conveying pod and attached by means of mounting brackets. The mounting brackets can follow the shape of the lower region of the conveying pod.

The mounting brackets can be disposed on the conveying pod and the air guide devices can be disposed rotatably supported on one mounting bracket each. The air guide devices can thereby be folded in close to the conveying pod as needed or folded out far from the same.

When taking off or landing, the air guide devices can be folded against the conveying pod, in order to generate as little negative influence on the air flow as possible. During flight travel (forward flight) of an aircraft having the transport module coupled thereto, the air guide devices can be folded out and help to support the transport module due to the aerodynamic lift thereof. As a result, less supporting work needs to be performed and more power can be applied to forward flight.

Further advantages of the present invention are evident from the drawings and the associated description. Shown in the drawings are:

FIG. 1 an exemplary depiction of a transport module;

FIG. 2 an exemplary depiction of a transport module having a flight module coupled thereto;

FIG. 3 a schematic depiction of a side view of a transport module;

FIG. 4 a schematic depiction of a further side view of a transport module;

FIG. 5 a schematic depiction of a side view of a transport module having a flight module coupled thereto;

FIG. 6 a schematic depiction of a side view of a transport module having an air guide device; and

FIG. 7 a schematic depiction of a further side view of a transport module having further air guide devices.

In the examples explained below, reference is made to the attached drawings, said drawings being part of the examples and in which specific embodiments in which the invention can be implemented are shown for illustrative purposes. In this respect, directional terminology such as “top,” “bottom,” “front,” “rear,” “forward,” “rearward,” etc. are used with respect to the orientation of the described figures. Because components of the embodiments can be positioned in a plurality of different orientations, the directional terminology serves for illustrative purposes and is not limiting in any way.

It is understood that other embodiments can be used and that structural or logical changes can be made without deviating from the scope of protection of the present invention. It is understood that the features of the various embodiment examples described herein can be combined with each other unless otherwise specifically indicated. The following detailed description is therefore not to be understood in a limiting sense, and the scope of protection of the present invention is defined by the attached claims.

Within the present description, the terms “connected,” “attached,” and “coupled” are used to describe a direct as well as an indirect connection, a direct or indirect attachment, and a direct or indirect coupling. In the figures, identical or similar elements have identical reference numerals wherever appropriate.

FIG. 1 shows an exemplary depiction of a transport module 1 for a vertical take-off and landing aircraft for transporting persons. The transport module 1 has a droplet-shaped conveying pod 2, wherein the droplet shape extends substantially vertically in the flight state of the aircraft (see FIG. 2). The droplet shape is reduced in width, as is also evident in FIGS. 1 and 2 and particularly in FIG. 4.

The conveying pod 2 comprises two opposite doors 8 through which the persons to be transported can enter and depart the conveying pod 2. The door panels of the doors 8 in the embodiment example are round in design but can also have any other arbitrary shape.

The doors 8 can be connected to the conveying pod by means of a device for displaceably connecting (schematically shown as a bracket holding the doors). The doors can be disposed on the conveying pod 2 for folding open or closed by means of a rotary hinge system, or for displacing by means of a rail system.

The conveying pod 2 is fully closed in design and has a partially transparent shell, so that persons can look out of the conveying pod 2.

The conveying pod 2 can optionally comprise a charging module having one or more rechargeable energy stores.

Seats equipped with safety belts and airbags; a climate control device; displays; and a communication device for communicating with the flight module, other aircraft, or a ground destination are disposed in the interior of the conveying pod (not shown).

The conveying pod 2 can be connected to a flight module 5 by means of a connecting device 3. to this end, the connecting device 3 comprises an elongate, rotationally symmetrical shaft 6, one end thereof comprising the coupling device 4 and the other end thereof attaching to the conveying pod 2.

The shaft 6 is elongate in design, such that a safe vertical distance 7 is produced between the conveying pod 2 and the coupling device 4. The safe vertical distance 7 is determined by the length of the shaft 6. The safe vertical distance 7 or the length of the shaft 6, together with the height of the conveying pod 2, has a height of 3 m above a surface on which the conveying pod 2 stands, wherein the conveying pod 2 has a height of 2 m, for example, and the safe vertical distance 7 or the length of the shaft 6 is 1 m.

The shaft 6 and the conveying pod 2 comprise a fiber composite material, such as a carbon fiber or glass fiber reinforced plastic, whereby the transport module 1 is characterized by a low mass and simultaneously very good mechanical properties.

The coupling device 4 is implemented as a coupling counterpart of a hinged coupling between a flight module 5 for coupling and the transport module 1. The corresponding coupling part is thereby disposed on the flight module 5, so that the transport module 1 and the flight module 5 can be coupled to each other and can assume a flexible inclination relative to each other.

The coupling device 4 can be controllable in design, so that a connection between the transport module 1 and the flight module 5 can be produced or released intentionally, for example automatically.

FIG. 2 shows the transport module 1 of FIG. 1 having the flight module 5 coupled thereto, wherein the transport module 1 and the flight module 5 together form the aircraft. The transport module 1 is disposed centered below the flight module 5 and can be placed on a standing surface by means of a stand device, not shown here, of the transport module 1. The flight module 5 comprises a plurality of drive units 10 disposed in a plane on supporting structure 9, wherein the supporting structure 9 comprises supporting beams 11 connected to each other at nodes and each drive unit 10 comprises an electric motor and a propeller operatively connected to the electric motor. The transport module 1 can be lifted off the ground and transported by means of the flight module 5, wherein the stand device is folded against the conveying pod when taking off.

FIG. 3 shows the transport module 1 of FIG. 1 in a schematic side view. In addition to the components described in conjunction with FIG. 1, the safe vertical distance 7 determined by the length of the shaft 6 is evident from FIG. 3.

FIG. 4 shows the transport module 1 of FIG. 1 in a further schematic side view from a perspective rotated 90° about the longitudinal axis of the shaft 6 in comparison with FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 shows the transport module 1 having the flight module 5 coupled thereto according to FIG. 2 in a schematic side view, wherein the components described for FIG. 2 are evident.

FIG. 6 shows a transport module 1 comprising an air guide device 12. Said device is implemented in a wing-like manner as a vertically oriented flat plate and mount on a back side opposite the travel flight direction of the transport module 1 (FIG. 6: the flight direction of the transport module 1 is in the plane of the drawing, and the transport module 1 travels toward the right). The air guide device 12 acts as a tail, maintaining the transport module 1 in a stable orientation relative to the vertical or longitudinal axis thereof during flight.

The air guide device 12 can be attached to the transport module 1 in a stationary or rotatable manner. The position of the air guide device 12 relative to the transport module 1 can also be displaceable, for example extended or retracted linearly.

Further air guide devices 12 can be mounted in order to bring about further stabilizing effects or improvements in air flow at the transport module 1.

FIG. 7 shows a transport module 1 having two further air guide devices 12 serving as lift aids for generating additional lift of the transport module 1 during flight travel (forward flight) of the transport module 1.

The air guide devices 12 each comprise a wing having a plate shape or slightly curved, wherein the plane of the plate extends in the flight direction of the transport module 1 (FIG. 7: flight direction of the transport module 1 is perpendicular to the plane of the drawing), so that only the cross section of the flat wing is evident in FIG. 7 as a line.

The air guide devices 12 can be attached in the lower region of the conveying pod 2 by means of two mounting brackets 13, wherein the mounting brackets 13 can be rotatably supported on the conveying pod 2 and the wings on one mounting bracket 13 each. The mounting brackets 13 can follow the shape of the lower region of the conveying pod 2. The air guide devices 12 can thereby be folded closely against the conveying pod 2 and, when needed, folded out far from the same (FIG. 7: dotted line with double arrow).

When taking off or landing, the wings are folded against the conveying pod 2, in order to generate as little negative influence on the air flow as possible. During flight travel (forward flight) of the transport module 1, the wings can be folded out and, due to the aerodynamic lift thereof, help to support the transport module 1, so that less overall support work needs to be performed and thus more power is available for forward flight.

The wings are preferably disposed in the lower region of the transport module because the influence of the downdraft of the propellers of a flight module 5 (not shown) connected to the transport module 1 is the least.

All air guide devices 12 of the embodiments according to FIGS. 6 and 7 can be implemented for controlled adjusting of the alignment thereof to the conveying pod 2 of the transport module 1, so that the function can be optimally adapted to the flow conditions, etc., during flight operation.

The expression “and/or” used here, when used in a series of two or more elements, indicates that each of the listed elements can be used alone, or any combination of two or more of the listed elements can be used.

For example, if a relationship is described comprising components A, B, and/or C, the relationship can comprise the components A alone; B alone; C alone; A and B in combination; A and C in combination; B and C in combination; or A, B, and C in combination.

LIST OF REFERENCE NUMERALS

  • 1 Transport module
  • 2 Conveying pod
  • 3 Connection device
  • 4 Coupling device
  • 5 Flight module
  • 6 Shaft
  • 7 Safe vertical distance
  • 8 Door
  • 9 Supporting structure
  • 10 Drive unit
  • 11 Supporting beam
  • 12 Air guide device
  • 13 Mounting bracket

Claims

1.-12. (canceled)

13. A transport module for a vertical take-off and landing aircraft for transporting persons and/or loads, wherein the transport module comprises a conveying pod and a connection device for connecting the conveying pod to a flight module, the connecting device comprising an elongate shaft, one end of which comprises a coupling device and the other end of which is attached to the conveying pod.

14. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the elongate shaft is extended in design, such that a safe vertical distance of the coupling device above the conveying pod is established.

15. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the elongate shaft is substantially rotationally symmetrical in design.

16. The transport module of claim 13, wherein a length of the elongate shaft and a height of the conveying pod together result in a combined height of at least 2.5 m above a standing surface of the conveying pod.

17. The transport module of claim 13, wherein a length of the elongate shaft and a height of the conveying pod together result in a combined height of at least 3 m above a standing surface of the conveying pod.

18. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the conveying pod is shaped substantially like a droplet.

19. The transport module of claim 13, wherein an attaching area of the conveying pod for attaching the elongate shaft comprises a cross-sectional taper for transitioning to a cross section of the elongate shaft.

20. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the conveying pod comprises a charging module.

21. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the coupling device is implemented as a coupling counterpart of a hinged coupling between a flight module for coupling and the transport module.

22. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the coupling device is controllable.

23. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the transport module comprises a fiber composite material or consists of a fiber composite material.

24. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the elongate shaft and/or the conveying pod comprises a fiber composite material or consists of a fiber composite material.

25. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the transport module further comprises a stand device.

26. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the conveying pod comprises a stand device.

27. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the transport module further comprises one or more air guide devices.

28. The transport module of claim 13, wherein the conveying pod comprises one or more air guide devices.

Patent History
Publication number: 20210070444
Type: Application
Filed: Dec 13, 2018
Publication Date: Mar 11, 2021
Inventors: Jens WERNER (Wilsdruff STT Kesselsdorf), Phil PEZUS (Wilsdruff STT Kesselsdorf), Matthias BIELER (Wilsdruff STT Kesselsdorf), Florian FRANKE (Wilsdruff STT Kesselsdorf)
Application Number: 16/772,225
Classifications
International Classification: B64D 9/00 (20060101); B64C 7/00 (20060101); B60L 53/00 (20060101); B64C 1/00 (20060101); B64C 21/02 (20060101);