The Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft – ‘BEHA’
The design brief was simple – Design an aircraft that could carry a heavy payload, take off and land in a very short space and generate a lot of lift.
Except this was the brief established for a Military specification UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) 30 years ago. The aircraft was created and it was light years ahead of its nearest rival in terms of capability and design innovation.
Lessons learned from that military UAV programme, laid the basis for the aircraft you see today. With extensive past experience working with joined wing technology, the BEHA is specifically designed as a Hybrid Electric aircraft, able to operate from all surfaces, with extremely Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capability.
Initial Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing of the wing design and configuration was completed and approved at the world renowned aerospace engineering University at Cranfield in the UK.
The design development then migrated to Swansea University, with aero optimisation of the aircraft being led by Dr Ben Evans. The early holding designs allowed the team to work on the intended final specification airframe, showcased at Revolution.Aero in London in March 2019 after five years of development.
Considerable engineering development has been completed on the joined wing technology, including scale models and military sized UAV’s with autonomous flight systems and multi-mission capability. A BEHA scale model from 2017 shown below.
The aircraft will utilise its patented ‘Triple Box-wing’ configuration to take off and land in less than 300 meters with the ability to be quick changed from passenger to cargo configuration in less than 15 minutes. This capability could allow the BEHA M1H to operate from aircraft carriers or small dirt roads without the need for expensive launch and capture systems. This capability opens up considerable logistical and humanitarian aid opportunities, in additional to daily pax/cargo operations in remote regions.
The BEHA M1H will be powered initially by a 1600hp, hybridised turboprop propulsion system via contra-rotating propfans contained within an acoustic reduction duct that improves thrust efficiency to around 220kts. The BEHA is targeted to cruise at around 200kts (230mph/370kph) with reduced noise and fuel burn from the advanced propulsion system.
The BEHA M1H is being widely praised as a futuristic and exciting looking aircraft that could revolutionise Regional Air Mobility. In terms of size, it sits within a similar footprint to the former BAe Systems Jetstream31 regional airliner with the BEHA M1H able to operate over a much wider variety of roles, especially within the utilitarian market.
Whilst the opportunity for all Electric flight in the future is a hugely exciting development opportunity for the aerospace sector, the regulatory requirements for ‘passenger operations’ are extensive and yet to be fully understood or even written. It was therefore decided that a ‘hybrid’ propulsion system was the sensible short-term solution, offering the ability to deliver ‘Fossil Fuel Free’ flight capability via the latest aviation biofuels.
Faradair® has every intention to build and demonstrate an ‘All-electric’ variant of the BEHA aircraft, however it is believed that certification of such aircraft for passenger operations is unlikely before 2030. The immediate focus is therefore in the development and delivery of a full size flying demonstrator of the BEHA M1H by 2022 and certification for passenger operations of this hybrid aircraft by 2025.
The BEHA will come in three specifications with initial prototype development and focus on the M1H variant;
- BEHA – M1H : A 1600hp hybrid turboprop powered aircraft in ‘combi’ configuration offering either 18 passenger seats or three LD3 containers, capable of lifting five tonnes of payload
- BEHA – M1AT : An unmanned variant of the M1H, capable of autonomous flight and heavy payload delivery as an aerial ‘Airtanker’ for firefighting, refueling or cargo logistics. This variant is perfectly suited to non-civilian roles and package freight distribution.
- BEHA – E1 : An all electric powered variant with 4+ hours of zero emissions flight capability
The BEHA M1H specification is yet to be finalised due to ongoing airframe design optimisation, but the following forecasted predictions will be close to final:
- Design Patented ‘Triple Box Wing’ for high lift and Very Short Take-Off and Landing (VSTOL)
- Extreme slow flight and ‘no stall’ flight capability (40kts still lifting)
- Short field multi-surface operational flexibility
- Retractable bicycle main landing gear configuration with wing mounted stabliser gear
- Full glass cockpit with single power lever control
- Acoustic reduction duct surrounding contra-rotating propfans for low noise and increased efficiency
- Multi-role capability across a range of sectors both commercial and non-civilian
- 18 passenger seats with quick change ‘combi’ facility to convert to cargo configuration within 15 minutes
- Internal capacity for three LD3 containers, loaded from either side via large cargo doors
- 5 tonne internal payload capability
- Remotely piloted or autonomous flight Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) capable
- All carbon composite configuration
- 1600hp Turboprop (JetA or Biofuel capable)
- Hybrid propulsion system including 500+KW electric motor for reduced fuel burn and increased safety
- 15 minute duration battery for all electric propulsion
- 1000+nm range depending on configuration
- Wing hard-points for external payloads
- 55ft (17m) Wingspan
- Take-off and landing distance less than 300 meters
- Vectored thrust for safe, slow speed maneuvering
- Cruise Speed 200+kts (230mph/370kph)
- Forecasted cost = $4million
Faradair® is now is discussions with potential customers for these aircraft.