Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a helicopter? Fixed-Wing Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircrafts (Fixed-Wing VTOLs) are the fusion created to fill the void that previous aircrafts created. There are two distinct types of aircrafts, each with their own of advantages and disadvantages. Fixed-wing aircrafts are exactly as they sound; they have wings that are locked into place and cannot move. Because of their structure, they resemble the shape of a bird during flight. Typical airplanes like the Airbus A300 Beluga and the Boeing 777 are fixed wing aircrafts, they require landing strips in order to take off/land and are typically used for commercial air travel. On the other hand, rotorcraft relies on rotary wings positioned on a mast in order to achieve take off. Helicopters and drones are examples of the vertical take-off capability of rotorcraft. Fixed wings have larger capacities and are able to achieve higher speeds, while rotorcrafts are able to stay hovering in the air, making them more practical for emergency scenarios or for dramatic action movie scenes.
Aside from having airborne capabilities, it seems as though there are no similarities between the two. What one lacks, the other makes up for. They are a Yin-Yang duo that seem to me immiscible. This has created a market for a vessel that can carry out the functionalities of both a fixed-wing and a rotorcraft. The solution for this is the fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing aircraft (fixed-wing VTOL).
The fixed-wing VTOL is a hybrid between a fixed-wing and a rotorcraft. It has rotary wings that allow it to hover but has the capability to switch to horizontal flight mid-air in fixed-wing fashion. The hover functionality allows it to be used for emergency rescues from disasters like earthquake or tsunami. In most applications, fixed-wing VTOL technology is used in military applications. As unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), fixed-Wing VTOLs can be controlled remotely the same way drones can. Because of this Fixed-Wing VTOL UAVs have characteristics that make them suitable for inspection, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), making them a major defense investment.
Other foreseeable applications for this technology include law enforcement, travel, and agriculture. In 2016 the revenue for this market was reported to be $1.98 billion. Manufacturers of fixed-wing VTOL UAVs are working towards increasing the durability of these vessels as well as creating electric powered variants in order to appeal to a civilian market.
Fixed-Wing VTOLs are an exciting new innovation to the field of aerospace. They are perfect examples of our capabilities of building upon existing technologies in order to create advancements that will propel us into the future.
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