When it comes to the future of flight, it’s hard to keep the human imagination in check- and there’s no reason to try. The next great innovation may come from tech company Oliver VTOL in the rather bizarre form of a helicopter-airplane hybrid: the Hexplane. VTOL stands for vertical take-off and landing, the capability that allows helicopters to take of and land without a runway.
The Hexplane (via Wired) is designed to capitalize on that advantage while combining it with the upsides of fixed wing aircraft- higher speeds and enhanced range of flight. It has three wings with with a propeller at each end. Once the aircraft is airborne, the propellers rotate 90 degrees to convert to forward flight mode. Oliver VTOL expects it to be capable of flying at 35,000′ with a load of 1,000 lbs at a speed of 400 mph- not quite supersonic, but impressive nonetheless.
The patent-pending design isn’t as outlandish as it may seem. The airplane design firm DAR Corporation validated those estimates. Oliver VTOL sees the Hexplane as the innovative design that could change the aviation industry; it plans on producing both military and commercial versions. The idea itself is not all that complicated: the two-propellered Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is based on a similar design and has been in the air since 1989, but it’s stats aren’t nearly as good as those projected for the Hexplane.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to really imagine these things flying overhead, if only because they’re so decidedly different from what we’re used to. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.