For the last 20 years, the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Aerodynamics, Aircraft Engineering and Lightweight Construction, and the company it spawned in 2007, Steinbeis Flugzeug- und Leichtbau GmbH (SFL), have been working with a variety of clients on innovative aviation solutions. The development services offered range from aircraft used in general aviation to projects involving remotely piloted air systems (RPAS). The work being carried out by the Steinbeis experts is focusing more and more on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
SFL already works as a project partner of the Manching-based company Airbus Innovations, playing a key role in the development of a groundbreaking UAV called the Quadcruiser. The unique selling point of this RPAS is its synthesis of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability with long-haul cruising that is both economical and fast, as well as extreme flight duration, or even a combination of these capabilities. These are features that are simply not possible with conventional helicopters or quadrocopters. The quadcruiser takes off and lands like a quadrocopter. It has four lifting propellers driven by electric motors and these are switched off during cruising and pointed in the direction of travel. An electric motor mounted at the rear then drives the UAV. Flight testing was carried out with a proof-of-concept prototype with a takeoff weight of 12 kilos.
The Steinbeis experts working on the project are tasked with making important contributions relating to the design, including flight mechanics calculations and performance calculations. They are also responsible for building prototypes and systems integration. This is where the broad experience of the Steinbeis experts in the field of electric aviation has come in useful. SFL was involved in the flight testing, which started in December 2014. Their development work also includes the design, development and construction of larger prototypes with a higher payload, and the development of hybrid engine systems for longer flight durations and greater distances.
The Steinbeis experts are partnering with Airbus Innovations Manching, the Institute of Aircraft Design at Stuttgart University, and other members of the LuFo aviation research program, working together on issues related to RPAS hybrid engines. An RPAS can be used for observation and transportation purposes, especially when the aircraft needs to take off or land in urban areas or on inaccessible terrain, but also when a long flight duration is needed over a major distance. As a result, there are many areas in which an RPAS can be used, from civil observation and transportation missions to military activities:
The technical prerequisites have already been fulfilled to use unmanned aviation systems, but there is still no statutory framework for the general use of UAVs in unrestricted airspace. Nonetheless, a lot of work is being carried out in this area at the moment. Assuming this aspect will also be dealt with in the near future, the experts believe there is huge growth potential for this technology, expecting double-digit market growth.
Steinbeis Flugzeug- und Leichtbau GmbH (SFL) is headed up by two directors: Prof. Rudolf Voit-Nitschmann and Werner Scholz.
Prof. Rudolf Voit-Nitschmann
Steinbeis Flugzeug- und Leichtbau GmbH (Stuttgart)