If, like me, you are into aerodynamics and aircraft configurations, you may be familiar with the name Ilan Kroo. He is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University and a pioneer in combining all the disciplines of aircraft design in pursuit of the highest efficiency. He has worked with most of the major aircraft manufacturers and advised a few hopefuls, including Aerion.
So, when I noticed his name on a couple of new patents, I paid attention. The patents are assigned to Zee.Aero, based in Mountain View, California. Ilan's bio on the Stanford website says he has been CEO of Zee.Aero since 2011. The company has a website, zee.aero, that doesn't reveal much - other than that "Z" stands for altitude in aeronautics, charge in electrodynamics, and for a prototype in an advanced stage of design...all of which are clues to what they are up to.
One of the new patents (US patent 8.393.564) is for a personal aircraft, described as "a safe, quiet, easy to control, efficient and compact aircraft...enabled through the combination of multiple vertical-lift rotors, tandem wings, and forward-thrust propellers." It is a VTOL design (the first Z) and it looks like this:
All graphics: USPTO
Small rotors mounted along the fuselage sides provide vertical lift and control during takeoff, transition to and from forward flight, and landing. Multiple rotors, each with their own electric motor and controller (the second Z), provide redundancy for thrust and control, with fast response rates for operation in gusty conditions, the patent says.
The tandem wings, combined with the multiple rotors, allow the center of lift to be balanced with the center of gravity in both vertical and horizontal flight, and enable the aircraft to tolerate a relatively large variation in payload weight, the patent says. The rotors, as well as the forward-thrust propellers, are small and shielded to increase "perceived and real safety" for passengers, it adds.
As for that last Z - a prototype in advanced design - I suspect we may be hearing more from Zee.Aero in the near future.