Oregon Patent of the Month – January 2024

Baxter Aerospace, LLC is fighting fires from above, combining aerospace technology and real-time sensing to save lives wherever possible. Wildfires are a growing global emergency and Baxter’s Clear the Air team is focused on building the technology that allows fire commanders to make informed decisions with constantly refreshed data. 

The company has been granted a patent for their latest development – a drone-style aircraft that combines fixed-wing structures with rotor-based propulsion systems to provide flight in any needed flight operation. Marketed as BA-1 Dragonfly, the aircraft combines helicopter flight controls with traditional wing-borne flight controls to reduce the number of flight critical components and, therefore, the overall cost.

The aircraft comprises a body structure, a tail section coupled to the body, and a stabilizer. What sets this invention apart is its propulsion system, capable of producing thrust in two distinct flight modes: rotor-borne and wing-borne. During rotor-borne flight, the thrust is directed aft along the longitudinal axis for vertical take-off, while in wing-borne flight, it’s redirected forward for horizontal travel. This transformative capability opens up a spectrum of flight possibilities, from vertical take-offs to traditional airborne maneuvers.

Key to this innovation is the actuation system, which not only enables the articulation of the tail section but does so around two perpendicular rotational axes. This dynamic movement allows for precise control over the aircraft’s pitch and yaw during both rotor-borne and wing-borne flights, introducing a level of agility and versatility rarely seen in conventional aircraft.

In the rotor-borne mode, the aircraft boasts a pair of rotors, each rotating in opposite directions, providing a mechanism for controlling the roll of the aircraft by adjusting their relative speeds. This novel approach to rotor dynamics enhances the aircraft’s maneuverability during take-off and landing operations.

The gimballing mechanism, a sophisticated component of the tail section, further enhances control. It rotates the tail section about two axes, affecting pitch and yaw during wing-borne flight, and adjusting the vector of thrust during rotor-borne flight, thereby influencing the aircraft’s attitude and direction of flight.

For vertical take-offs and landings, the aircraft exhibits a nose-down orientation, with the longitudinal axis perpendicular to the ground. During wing-borne flight, the longitudinal axis becomes parallel to the ground, showcasing the aircraft’s adaptability to diverse flight scenarios.

This invention also introduces a closed-loop control system with distinct tuning parameters for pitch and yaw during different flight modes. This meticulous control mechanism ensures a smooth transition between rotor-borne and wing-borne flight, underscoring the aircraft’s stability and reliability.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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