Sherbrooke-based companies, including NGC Aerospace, are working on what could be the first vertical take-off electric plane that will be used to deliver organs to the country. NGC, Optis Ingénierie and the Center for Advanced Technologies (CTA) – BRP of the University of Sherbrooke are part of a consortium led by Zénith Altitude, a Bromont company.
The EOPA aircraft for “Electrical Optionally Piloted Aircraft” can be flown, but also fly without a pilot, says NGC Aerospace President and CEO Jean de Lafontaine. The project aims to meet the demands of the Lung Biotechnology company, whose goal is to be able to carry out organ transport quickly. The consortium also includes Brio Innovation from Laval.
As part of this project, NGC is responsible for the navigation, guidance and autonomous control of the aircraft, specifically the transition between vertical and horizontal flight, which is considered a rather critical phase. NGC also monitors the obstacle detection and avoidance system.
“We have demonstrated the feasibility of aircraft control where the wings rotate. ”
– Jean de Lafontaine
“We are in a consolidation phase and then there will be a preliminary design phase […] if everything goes as planned,” says Mr. de Lafontaine.
“We have demonstrated the feasibility of aircraft control where the wings rotate. We take off and the wings point to the sky. As the plane rises, the wings rotate to become like a conventional plane, and then fly horizontally. We developed the software to control this transition between vertical and horizontal flight. Conversely, when you arrive at your destination, you have to change from a horizontal flight to a vertical flight. It is very critical this phase, since the plane can land and crash. It is done without a driver, so automatically with our software. This is what we have demonstrated in the conceptual phase: we can make these transitions without humans on board, from control software that we develop.
“Not so long ago, it was thought that it was not feasible to fly a plane that carries 600 pounds in terms of cargo and that can fly a distance of several hundred kilometers with just an electric power. This is the first time we do that. When I was told about this at first, I wondered how it was feasible. Finally, with the calculations, it shows that it is possible. ”
The aircraft, which will be designed in Bromont, could fly around 2024-2025, hope the craftsmen of the project. However, it must go through many steps before arriving there. “There are different levels of certification,” notes de Lafontaine, highlighting the complexity of the process.
NGC participates in an international fair in Denver this week in connection with the unmanned aerial vehicles. NGC is presented in collaboration with Laflamme Aero, a company of Saint-Joseph-de-Coleraine, helicopter project in two independent rotors for the transport of goods and inspection of infrastructure, among others.
“There are very few helicopters out there in the world. There is a demand for this type of autonomous vehicles, but there are very few in this category. “This project has received funding from CARIC (Aerospace Consortium for Research and Innovation in Canada).
Moreover, notes Mr. Lafontaine in passing, satellite Proba 1, a fruit of the expertise of NGC, “has broken all longevity records” in satellite observation of the Earth.