INVESTMENTS, STARTUPS, TECHNOLOGY

Russian-made Archangel convertiplane requires investment

The Artamonoff Technologies design bureau has developed an unmanned convertiplane (a vertical takeoff aircraft) that can be used as air taxi, for cargo transportation, military purposes and in the search for missing people. The Archangel project was selected as part of the Searching for Lost People competition held by the Financial Corporation Sistema. Artamonoff Technologies does not have competition in Russia and some of its solutions are as good as the Western developments. The company requires investment of some $120 mio to manufacture two aircraft and launch serial production, company founder Mikhail Artamonov told Invest Foresight during a ‘technology breakfast’ at the National Society of Innovators and Rationalizers.

Plane plus copter

A convertiplane is an aircraft which uses rotor power (like a helicopter) for vertical takeoff and landing and converts to fixed-wing lift (like an airplane) in normal flight. Mikhail Artamonov’s company has developed an unmanned convertiplane with a hybrid drive with both combustion engines and electric engines. Two combustion engines are responsible for speed and lift, while two electric engines provide stabilization during hovering and in transition between helicopter-plane modes. The adaptive chassis allow the aircraft to land and take off from unprepared ground and unstable surfaces, for instance a ship deck, making it capable of operating as air taxi and cargo transporter. It can also be used for military purposes and in search and rescue operations. However, it is too expensive to be used in agriculture. A gasoline-powered convertiplane with a carrying capacity of 10 kg (22 lbs) will cost some $10K-$15K. The maximum speed of a 100 kg aircraft can reach 600km/h.

“Our objective is to reach the speed of 600 km/h, and the ultimate goal is to beat Apache, the fastest American military helicopter,” Artamonov said.

Depending on the version, the convertiplane will weigh from 30 kg (with a working load of 10-15 kg) to over 250-230 kg (with a working load of 100 kg). A large convertiplane will cost $100K-$120K. It is expensive because of its engines produced by U.S.-based Lycoming Engines.

Archangel project

Artamonoff Technologies is part of Saint Michel Group International whose sole owner is Mikhail Artamonov. Artamonov named his project ‘Archangel’ assuming that the convertiplane would be used mostly for search and rescue. Saint Michel Group has been selected as part of the Searching for Lost People competition for the best technology for locating missing people held by the Financial Corporation Sistema. While offering a RUR 75 mio ($1.1 mio) prize, Sistema hopes to find a solution that would help find missing people who do not possess a telephone within 10 hours in any weather, day or night.

“We decided to work on the convertiplane because it is a combination of a plane and a copter. Both of them can fly with an autopilot, while copter can land at any given area and operate at the entire speed range,” Artamonov explained.

Beat the rivals

In terms of technology, Artamonoff Technologies currently has only one rival: the U.S.-based Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. This company created a convertiplane with Eagle Eye combustion engines. A similar machine, TR-6X, was manufactured by the Korean company Korean Air. But the Russian developer plans to beat the rivals in terms of technical specifications, including maneuverability, adaptive magnetic chassis and the simplicity of the design. Navy officers told Artamonov that there is a problem with catching drones landing on a ship deck because they get blown away by the wind. Soldiers have to catch drones and risk their lives because it is not always possible to stop the propeller blades in time. Artamonov designed a magnetic gripping mechanism so that the drone can fix itself on ferromagnetic surfaces. Together with the adaptive chassis, it would prevent the drone from hitting the ship deck during landing and will hold it on the surface. The company received a patent on this development in February.

“We will automatically land and fix the drone on a ship deck or any other surface with an acceptable elevation difference.  The last moment of landing will be rough, but at least the drone will hold tight to the deck,” Artamonov said.

The project has five patents; three of them are on the convertiplane stabilization system, and the others are on the adaptive chassis and the system to fix the drone on ferromagnetic surfaces. To manufacture two versions of the convertiplane and to launch serial production, Artamonov needs some $120 mio. He is currently holding talks with five potential foreign investors.

“Investors are drawn by the innovativeness of our project, the hybrid power system that provides the stability of the aircraft in harsh weather conditions, and the ability to carry heavy cargo in an unmanned, fully automated mode,” Artamonov said.

If Artamonov fails to find investors, he will sell his patents for $12 mio (10% of the project cost).

By Natalya Kuznetsova

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