Commuting and daily regional air flights took one step closer to reality today as Faradair® begins wind tunnel and flight testing scale models of its 200+mph BEHA (Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft), an aircraft specifically designed for intercity flight and air commuting.
Faradair®, the UK’s leading hybrid aircraft development start-up believes its planned ‘Sky Hailing’ service via an App on your phone, will make regional and commuting flights commonplace through use of its futuristic looking BEHA.
“To begin the scale model testing of our BEHA aircraft after just three years of development is incredibly exciting,” explains Neil Cloughley, Managing Director, Faradair®. “The ability to begin regional intercity and commuting flights is essential if we are considering getting anywhere swiftly and cost effectively. To date we have not been able to do that via existing light aircraft and helicopters due to noise, cost of operations and concerns over emissions, restricting this form of transportation to the wealthiest individuals.”
He continues “We have solved these issues and so in addition to creating the aircraft and propulsion necessary to make our vision a reality; we have also decided to deliver this capability via a total platform solution similar to the ride hailing companies, except people will be sky hailing instead.”
It’s an ambitious target for the British company especially with the focus recently being on vertical take-off and landing ideas. However with over 100 years of collective aerospace experience, Faradair® has proven over the last couple of years that its more traditional vision for hybrid flight today as opposed to pure electric is the way to move forwards, so much so that this vision is now being embraced by the major Tier 1 aerospace companies.
Main features of the aircraft include:
- design patented triple box wing configuration for extremely slow flight and Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capability
- carrying six to eight passengers to their chosen destination in a comfortable, quiet cabin
- pushed through the air by a new British designed hybrid propulsion system that incorporates electric motors for the take-off before switching to a new biofuel/JetA1 (Fuel to be chosen by the operator) powered internal combustion engine.
This new hybrid propulsion system is being developed in partnership with leading advanced engineering firm – PRODRIVE. “Based on its recent development work within automotive hybrid engine and technology sector, Prodrive was selected by Faradair® as the perfect partner to develop a new hybrid propulsion system,” Cloughley explains. “We have formed a joint venture with Prodrive called ‘Hybraero’ to deliver the new hybrid aviation engine prototypes.”
The Hybraero H600 is a 600hp engine that combines electric motors; an internal combustion engine and battery pack for less weight than many existing general aviation engines. The system allows the operator to taxi and take-off under electric power, before switching to the clean sheet design, internal combustion engine for the cruise part of the flight.
By selecting this form of parallel hybrid propulsion, it allows the first moves into an electric flight future without the battery weight penalty currently hampering an all-electric design. Faradair® believe the issues with existing battery technologies means claims for long distance flight and certification are unlikely to be delivered anytime soon.
“Hybrid power is deliverable now; it offers safety back-up if there is ever a problem with either propulsion mode and the benefits of reduced noise and emissions from the electric take-off that will assist in the push towards Paris Climate agreement targets,” says Cloughley.
The engine is set to begin testing by the end of 2018 and there is considerable interest from other manufacturers to fit the propulsion system as a retrofit to existing small aircraft.
“Creating an aerospace start-up in the UK is the toughest thing I have ever done, but over the last three years our team has worked flat out to deliver the capability behind our vision for intercity air transport and air mobility commuting.” Cloughley continues. “The global population is increasing and existing infrastructure is not keeping pace with that population growth, therefore there is only so much capacity that land based transport solutions can deliver. Therefore when demand outstrips supply those commuting on those transport systems daily are often forced to pay higher fares whilst receiving an inferior service.”
“How can we honestly state that a peak ticket rail fare into London over of £200 for a less than 200 mile journey is any form of transport progress?,” he asks. “Our BEHA aircraft will allow operators to deliver regular scheduled flights for commuters in the peak hours and then then ‘hailed’ during ‘off-peak’ hours via our App, for private bookings and corporate contracts.”
A number of similar start-ups are now trying to replicate the model and vision put forward by Faradair® back in 2014 but it has managed to maintain its advantage in the development curve.
Cloughley adds “We have created an aircraft that is faster, quieter, cheaper to operate and safer than a helicopter, taking off and landing in less than 200 meters and not disturbing local residents as it does so, but all achieved via a sensible cost base model and deliverable technologies.”
Faradair® has an impressive knowledge base and team with experience within the commercial and unmanned aerospace sectors. Its progress recently attracted one the UK’s leading aero dynamicists – Dr Ben Evans – Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Swansea University. He is one of the lead engineers from the BloodhoundSSC land speed record car project. “The Faradair® BEHA has the potential to revolutionise the aerospace sector with capabilities never seen before from an aircraft of this size,” he says.
The BEHA has now begun an optimisation programme under Dr Evans leadership as part of the new R&D office Faradair® is establishing at the University.
Winning two awards last year for new business and innovation, Faradair® is set to become one of the UK’s most exciting SME growth companies within the UK aerospace sector and is ideally placed for support via the Government’s new industrial strategy scheme. Both InnovateUK and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have set forth plans and visions that are perfectly met by Faradair® and its intercity air transport platform and it will be interesting to see if the company will be one of the first to benefit from such support.
The company is about to begin a major investment funding round and it has already received offers to relocate the business overseas. Mr Cloughley recently gave a lecture to the Royal Aero Society Bristol Branch on the journey of an aerospace start-up, highlighting some of the challenges faced by such companies within a UK aerospace sector dominated by multi-national tier one organisations.
The video of that lecture can be found at https://youtu.be/9OjKPcp4zis
Cloughley’s vision for regional air transport future is one that is now gathering momentum and the total platform solution now offered by Faradair® is going to offer partnership opportunities to some of the organisations now showing interest in this sector.
“Faradair® will enable everyone to benefit from intercity flight opportunity via an aircraft that is affordable to operate by airfields and owner operators,” says Cloughley. “At the same time it is providing a level of safety capability hereto unseen in an aircraft of this size, with back-up propulsion, safety cell carbon composite construction, new materials and nano technology structures combined with ballistic parachute recovery for worst case scenarios.”
The future is looking extremely bright for this start-up that has spoken at international conferences and has led the way in hybrid aircraft development since 2014. It found a problem, designed a solution to solve that problem and a delivery method to enable it begin operations in cities throughout the world.
“Just think back to the time when people thought the idea of ride hailing was undeliverable, now look at the size of those companies delivering those services, we can do the same for regional air transport” says Cloughley.
Cloughley is a visionary; his belief in a ‘Tablet’ computer design back in 2001 was not backed due to the idea of a tablet being a ‘fad’, then Apple came along. Having since spent 13 years in the commercial aircraft market his new vision for regional air transport is now becoming a reality.
“Is Faradair® the new air mobility UBER or Lyft of the skies? Time will tell, but if the decision to invest and support this company was based purely on viability, experience and proven ability to deliver that which they have put forward, then Faradair® is in as strong a position as any and one that the Wright Brothers would most likely have understood and supported,” Cloughley concludes.
*High resolution images are available by request
Faradair can also be found at: www.facebook.com/Faradair and Twitter @Faradair
and YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyjOF20yr5cxmiCSJsaAwOw