A Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft is one that can hover, take-off and land vertically. This classification includes a variety of aircrafts including fixed-wing aircrafts as well as choppers and other aircrafts with powered rotors. Some VTOL aircraft can operate in other modes as well, such as CTOL (Conventional Take-Off and Landing), STOL (short take-off and landing), or STOVL (Short take-off and Vertical Landing). Others, such as some helicopters, can only operate by VTOL, due to the aircraft lacking landing gear that can handle horizontal motion.
VTOL is a subset of V/STOL (vertical or short take-off and landing). Some lighter-than-air aircraft also qualify as VTOL aircraft, as they can hover, takeoff, and land with vertical approach/departure profiles.
- The best-known example is the helicopter, but the F35B FIGHTER JET (as can be seen above) can also take-off and land from a standing position off the back of an aircraft carrier.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF VTOL
Broadly speaking, it is categorized into two :
- Rotorcraft, or rotary wing aircraft- Those that use lift generated by rotor blades spinning around a central mast, so helicopters, quadcopters and gyrocopters.
- Powered–lift vehicles – Those that take off and land vertically but perform differently from rotorcraft when in flight. They typically have a more conventional fixed wing plane design. Examples include convertiplanes such as the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, which takes off and lands vertically but uses fixed wing in normal flight.
ADVANTAGES OF VTOL
- VTOLs are considerably efficient as they combine the vertical flight of a multirotor aircraft with the forward air travel of a fixed-wing aircraft. This combination of techniques therefore, provides a solution with optimal characteristics.
- VTOL technology means aircraft can theoretically take off and land almost anywhere, making them far more flexible. They’re also able to perform various maneuvers but not possible with a conventional plane-a significant advantage for aircraft in combat situations.
- What’s more?- VTOL aircraft, such as drones, that use electric motors are more energy efficient than those using jet engines!
Despite the extensive advantages of VTOL, it is important to recognise its main limitations:
- Slower, and therefore less coverage, compared to manned aircraft.
- Requires a certified operator licensed for Powered Lift platforms (more rare than multirotor and fixed wing categories).
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF VTOL?
Uber unveiled plans to launch flying taxis by 2020. To remove the need for runways, these cars will rely on vertical take-off and landing technology.
Meanwhile, Munich-based aviation startup Lilium aims to offer an on-demand flying taxi service that it claims will be five times faster than travelling in a car. The current prototype is a two-seater aircraft shaped like a conventional plane that uses a VTOL system.
At the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Airbus showcased a prototype flying hybrid car. The modular vehicle can disconnect from it wheels, after which it is picked up by a flying set of rotors.
What’s more, NASA has developed the battery-powered GL-10, which take off and land vertically but flies efficiently like a conventional plane.