GIVING WINGS TO A DREAM
In the realm of space research, India is among the top countries in the world. However, when it comes to aerospace sector, India is lagging way behind, not having produced one commercial aircraft to date. It is not that India does not have the talent and
THE PRESENT GOVERNMENT IS earnest in its motives of developing the nation, leveraging the vast talent pool it has. The ‘Make in India’ initiative is going to be a major driving force for both indigenous development and collaborated efforts. With regard to aeronautical ‘ Make in India’, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is the nodal agency for developing commercial aero-related manufacturing and its ecosystem in India. The recently announced National Civil Aviation Policy is going to catapult the aviation sector from different perspectives, including aircraft development. And with increased foreign direct investment in defence and aviation, the possibilities of getting funding for ‘translatable’ ideas has become easier.
It is in this background we see the efforts of Ramees Muhammed from Kannur in Kerala and now working Qatar. India woefully lags behind in concept design. But here we see an Indian aviation enthusiast develop a futuristic design of an aircraft with vertical lift-off capabilities. The concept design called StingR12 is a crossover concept between reality and fiction which is designed to perform like a jet plane but to take-off and land like a helicop-
ter. There are aircraft with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) ability, but mostly are limited to single-seat military platforms. The concept propagated by Ramees is of an aircraft designed to perform like a jet plane but to take-off and land like a helicopter. He has said that two main engines situated at the rear end of the machine provide the thrust and also controllability by thrust vectoring. Additionally angle adjustable rotors on each of the two wings enable vertical take-off, landing and hover in midair. The thrust vectoring and rotors are complemented by the winglets which bend down and turn inwards.
The concept aircraft uses carbon fibre composites in order to reduce weight thereby reducing fuel consumption. The definitive shape helps the jet to perform midair manoeuvres and quickly descend and climb. The concept aircraft measures around 23.8 m in length, 6.3 m height and has a wingspan of 4.38 m.
The aircraft, he said, is ideal for rescue operations in hilly regions, forest areas as well as for medical evacuation in urban areas. It can also be used for military and commercial purposes. He said the plane can carry eight passengers. An enhanced canopy gives the pilot and passenger a better view of outside. The fuel tanks are situated at the lower side of the belly as unlike the traditional aircraft, its wings are provided with rotors.
In an interview with SP’s AirBuz, Ramees elaborates on the details of the concept. SP’s AirBuz (SP’s): Could you give us an update on your concept design? As we see, the first articles surfaced two years ago. Ramees Muhammed (Ramees): I have been sketching to refine the shape from a fictional model to a more reality-based one. The overall shape has been changed gradually with more curvy rather than steep structure. I am constantly trying to refine the shape which has to conform to the laws of aerodynamics. An arrange- ment is being made to 3D print the structure, so we can test it as a scale model. SP’s: You were supposed to meet up with Oman Police to present the concept. Has that happened? Ramees: The demonstration to anyone can be carried out only when we have a live working model and not just visuals and sketches. We will do it once we have a working model to show. SP’s: Such futuristic concepts involve a lot of trial and error before they are ready to fly. What according to you could be the time line for it to reach the stage of manufacture? Ramees: We will work on the finalised structure and create a scale model for the wind tunnel test and integrate with working engines to test it. The current model has only gone through the virtual wind tunnel software. For a bigger model, we need expert advice and inputs in respect of fuel and power output. For a complex project like this, there could be and in fact there will be a lot of failed tests and trials as the concept is quite different from traditional aircraft. This may take a year or two for experimentation under different conditions. Maybe there will be drastic changes on the shape, structure and the hydraulics as some of them may not conform to the laid down standards. SP’s: In view of the complexity of the concept, it will require huge investments. What is the ballpark figure estimated by you? Ramees: To be honest, I haven’t been much conscious about the cost yet as this idea needs to be implemented to get a working model. For an aircraft like this, the initial production cost could be over $180 million; but again we cannot estimate it at the moment. It all depends upon what materials to use, components and various tests and modifications. SP’s: In these two years, have there been any changes that you have made to the concept? Ramees: The concept model has gone through many revisions over this past two years. The shape and placement of hydraulics all over the airframe has been modified. The previous design had the air intake mounted separately which has later been integrated with the bottom of the wings. The free rotors have been replaced with ducted fans and main engines are now equipped with control systems for thrust vectoring.
FOR AN AIRCRAFT LIKE THIS, THE INITIAL PRODUCTION COST COULD BE OVER $180 MILLION; BUT AGAIN WE CANNOT ESTIMATE IT AT THE MOMENT