During the last poll performed on a population representing Cro-magnons, our ancestors, the question « In order to secure your survival would you rather: fly like a bird or run like a horse » was answered at 95% by « Fly* ! ».
*As the glorious French Air Force used to say « Rise up and conquer »

In this beginning of the 21st century, even though survival and more can be simply ensured by going to the nearest mall, if we take into account the traffic composed of automobiles circulating in the 2D world, it is easy to imagine that the answer would remain the same : « Fly* ! »
That’s why, in this beginning of the 21st century, it seems that a new idea to popularize the usage of aircrafts is quickly spreading across the planet. This way, you and I could vogue around in the 3D world.

In this article, we would like to present a new single place aircraft that uses NO rolling and NO rotary wingfor take-off and landing: the Xplorair* PX200

*International patent approved

A brief State of the Art

concept xplorair 1

On this illustration below you will find a sample of the technological breakthroughs capable of vertical lift off or very small rolling take-off:
Without contest, the most mature technology remains the rotary wing and more precisely the helicopter application. It is ranked high up in first place when discussing vertical take-off. The second place is occupied by the aircrafts using the reaction from fluidic thrust, flow deviated toward the ground. In this technology, 2 applications can be distinguished: those using a large flux with small speed (helicopters) [they have the best propulsion efficiency], or those mastering « small » flux but at very high speeds (jet or turbine engines) [they have the higher cruising speeds]. In both cases the technologies require very complex mechanisms and a closely controlled maintenance. Nevertheless, there might be a third principle to dig into, it is known since the beginning of the 20st century as: the Coanda effect, named after its Romanian finder, Henri Marie Coanda.

The Coanda effect?

concept xplorair 2First we would like to remind (sorry for the ultra experts in this domain!) that for a given profile there is a lift coefficient Cl (performing the work) and a drag coefficient Cd (dragging its feet), these two parameters characterize a wing. But, since no one or nothing is perfect after a certain angle of attack the wing loses its efficiency while the lift drops. On the picture to the left you will see one of the numerous solutions that was experimented on. It allows maintaining lift at high angles of attack and therefore higher Cl by sucking the layers of air flow on the suction face of the wing. This technology was abandoned for multiple reasons.

On the picture below, we can see that the flow remains « attached » to the suction face concept xplorair 3even though the angle of attack is high (in this picture greater than 70°, and can reach angles up to 130° based on NASA test results). The picture is a numerical simulation based on tests performed in a wind tunnel at l’ISAE-ENSICA.

These tests were supervised by sophomore students from the Fluid mechanics Department. They are a confirmation that the Coanda effect can be used efficiently to deviate high speed jet flows on high angles of attack.

The Xplorair PX200, vertical take-off and landing vehicle is built around this Coanda effect.

And the Thruster engine?

One of the applications of the Coanda effect was achieved by Boeing in the 70’s with the YC14. It allowed to reduce significantly concept xplorair 4the rolling distance (from 1500m to 900m) because the architecture generated a greater lift. The only inconvenience is that the specific architecture was relatively frozen and reduced the propulsion force, and therefore the cruising speed.

On these pictures below, we will note that the air deflectors spread the hot flow from the jet engines, allowing the flow to « wet » a maximum of the suction layer and therefore create a greater lift. This explains that, on the global view of the aircraft (to the left), we can see a removable surface deployed only during take-off and landing, this is a foreseen technology, by NASA for the year 2025.
The PX200 needs to solution the problem of « performance neutralization » where:

Greater lift = reduced cruising speed

The idea is to integrate a brand new engine in the wings, the brand name of this engine is deposited as theThermoreacteur© (called Thermoreactor in this paper). The resulting architecture will allow us to better use the Coanda effect during the take-off and landing phases all the while insuring that this same Coanda effect does not « parasite » the high cruising speed.
Furthermore, the new propulsion system will respect the following specifications:

1- Generate a flux of high speed, high flow burned gas, through a jet pipe of box section. The exhaust section is adapted to wet a large surface of the suction face of the wing.
2- Display a compact geometry and therefore a high power ratio per volume unit
3- Generate a gain in specific fuel consumption of at least 20% compared to actual state of theart turbine engines.
4- Minimize maintenance requirements.
5- Most of all, be in line with the most progressive acoustic norms such as they are imagined for the years 2025/2030

concept xplorair 5

And nothing less…

At first sight there is enough challenge to this new development to send us “back to school” in order to answer all these specifications! Nevertheless, let us not forget that we are part of the aeronautic field of play… And we will show that there actually is a realistic opening toward a sky of possibilities.

First of all, our list of specifications requires a gain in specific fuel consumption. This field of studies is the playground to never seen before advances proposed by the countries on the western coast of the Atlantic Ocean. We will comment the illustration below available on the internet on the DARPA web-site:

concept xplorair 7

The engine manufacturers daily feed off the Brayton cycle to design the actual turbine engines. But they also know that the thermodynamic efficiency is fairly low since 75% of the calories are evacuated in the atmosphere, participating in part to global warming, not talking about the kerosene consumption…

This is one of the reasons why the Humphrey cycle is in the spot light, the consumption gains announced by the DARPA are simply breathtaking. The illustration here under explains that for a compression ratio of 17, the thermodynamic efficiency gains are close to 15%.

concept xplorair 8

Based on American experts, the specific consumption would be reduced by up to 30 or 50% ! Nevertheless for our study, we prefer to limit this gain to 20% indicated by all our simulations and other calculations performed as of today. We would like to mention that our technology designed to perform the Humphrey Cycle is very different from the one used by the American consortium Rolls Royce, Pratt&Whitney*, General Electric and Alliant Techsystems and their tens of millions dollar budget to design a prototype for the year 2014 !


The Thermoreactor technology

The technology aims at achieving the thermodynamic of the Humphrey cycle, in other words combustion in constant volume, in contrary from the Brayton cycle used by all the actual turbine engines where the combustion is at constant pressure (isobar). What is the advantage? For the same quantity of fuel, the Constant Volume Combustion (CVC) allows a greater increase in pressure than when using isobar combustion. The exhaust temperatures are also much lower…

For example, in the Brayton cycle, if the pressure after compression (called P2) is 5 bars it will remain sensibly the same throughout the combustion phase (not counting the charge loss or the combustion efficiency). On the other hand for CVC (Humphrey), if P2 is the same 5bars, the pressure at the end of the combustion (called P3) will be P3 = 6xP2 = 30bars !

We can explain this by mentioning that for isobar combustion the Cp (Specific heat at constant pressure) is the main parameter, whereas in a CVC the main parameter is the Cv (Specific heat at constant volume). When introducing the Mayer’s equation that gives Cp-Cv=r (r is 287 for the air), we show that the temperature will be much greater in constant volume (Cv) than in isobar (Cp) and in consequence the pressure will be much greater at the end of combustion in constant volume.

The basics are laid down, but in order to answer all the specifications listed above, we still need to « draw » the combustion chamber that will achieve this advantage.

The combustion chamber’s architecture is as follows:

concept xplorair 9

The design of the Thermoreactor’s combustion chamber (patent deposited and published on the WIPO) can also be used in isobar mode when the valves are static in a nozzle form (upper illustration). In this mode the Thermoreactor can work as a classic combustion chamber. In the other mode, the valves are synchronized in rotation (lower illustration) to create the CVC. Of course the constant volume combustion will be used mainly during cruising for an aircraft application in order to satisfy the fuel consumption specification.

A few applications

We are aiming our efforts on the single place aircraft as our preferred application (« He who can do more can do less ») the given brand name of this project is the Xplorair© PX200 that stands for Personal Xplorair 200km/h. One of the advantages of the Thermoreactor is its compact size, small enough to be fitted within the wing. One Unit of Propulsion (UoP) has an outer geometry of 25cm x 10cm x 10cm; it will produce either a continuous power or a relatively modest pulsation power. During take-off or in continuous mode, one UoP develops a propulsive force of Fprop=170N.

Since we have decided to limit the total mass of the PX200 to 300 kg, we have planned to use a total of 20UoP within the front wings and in the back tail of the aircraft as shown on the picture below.

concept xplorair 10

On this illustration of the PX200, 7 Thermoreactors are fitted in each of the front wings and 6 Thermoreactors are in the back tail. This adds up to 20 Thermoreactors developing, at take-off, a lift of 20x170N = 3400N.

To start, during take-off, all 20 Thermoreactors are activated to lift the PX200 during 4 minutes (1/15th hour) to a maximum altitude of 2500meters (the bio-fuels do not like « cold weather »). This represents a consumption of about 15kg of fuel for take-off. Then, during Cruise the consumption is about:

15 liters per 100 km at 200 km/h

Based on our last simulations in cruising mode, with a Cd between 0.025 and 0.030, only one Thermoreactor at the tip of eachconcept xplorair 11 front wing will be sufficient to have the PX200 reach its 200km/h (55m/s). We also notice that having this blowing at the tip of the back wing allows us to not need Winglets…Furthermore, in order to reduce acoustic levels within the pilot’s cabin, all throughout the cruising, the engines will be activated in priority in the back tail.

Note: Of course, it is possible to reach higher peak speeds by activating more than 2 Thermoreactors. In these conditions, the maximum speed equation is: VMaxi # 140.(N)1/2 (km/h) with N = number of pairs of Thermoreactors activated .

Therefore if we activate all 20 Thermoreactors: VMaxi > 600 km/h! But of course beware of the consumption and therefore flight endurance….

About the concept of take-off and cruise

concept xplorair 12

In take-off mode, the Thermoreactor is fitted within the front wings. The back wing and the lower wing rotate until the lower wing is positioned at the exhaust of the Thermoreactor’s nozzle, allowing the Coanda effect to take place. The jet of exhaust air is deviated toward the ground and insures lift-off not purely vertical but at a certain slanted angle. In a more general term this Take-off is WITHOUT rolling (TOLWIR*)

* Take Off and Landing WIthout Rolling


concept xplorair 13
Concerning the aircraft structure design, the first draft shown to the right, is created by Sogeti High Tech (Blagnac France / concept xplorair 14Structural department / internship in October 2010). This draft is currently undergoing a more detailed design to identify materials 100% recyclable, such as organic materials (plants), the new bamboo fiber based materials, and other classic materials used in aeronautics. A lot of care is brought on the acoustic levels, but we can not go into more details since some patents are in the works with EADS Innovation Works. We can nevertheless mention that a gain of at least 15dB seems achievable…

About the ThermoCompressor

As we have seen, the combustion chamber of the Thermoreactor is not linked to any compressor or concept xplorair 15turbine. This independence produces other undeniable advantages. The exhaust temperatures are no longer limited to those withheld by the turbine, but directly linked to the resistance of the materials that are going to constitute the exhaust pipe and the valves.

Therefore for the design of the jet pipe, we are brought back to the same technologies as those used in Ramjet or rockets. In consequence, since we can go higher in temperatures we can foresee some gains in consumption, or at equal consumption the specific power will be increased.

We still need to supply with compressed air the combustion chamber. To do this, we have decided to deport the compressor group and lodge it in the luggage compartment. In this solution, the Thermo compressors will use two Thermoreactors positioned symmetrically as shown on the picture below. They will supply a compressed air tank, in which they will be immerged for auto-supply. The tank will also be linked through specific ducts to each Thermoreactor in the front wings and in the back tail for compressed air supply.

The Thermocompressor group is integrated in the luggage carrier of the PX200

The below architecture of the Thermocompressor* was designed under CATIA in June of 2010 with the help of the Mechanical Department at INSA Toulouse:

* Patent, deposited by EADS Innovation Works, based on Michel Aguilar’s Thermoreacteur© 

concept xplorair 16

And the aero-structure?

In 2010 and 2011, some preliminary studies have been performed by the Aero-structure department of Sogeti High Tech in Toulouse Blagnac France.

concept xplorair 17

The most probable design of the single place PX200 has the following measurements:
1.37 m x 2.7 m x 1.3 m

concept xplorair 18

What’s next?

Obviously the heart of the innovation rests in the design and development of the Thermoreactor in a Dual-mode (continuous and pulsation) with post injection. In fact a consortium was created, it is lead by COMAT Aerospace (SME specialized in high technologies near Toulouse) in collaboration with a major laboratory of the CNRS (PPrime in Poitiers) and a major motorist. It regroups the necessary criteria to be part of the RAPID program proposed by the DGA (General Delegation for Armaments) and of the Industry Ministry. The objective is to validate the concept of the Thermoreactor and to measure the primary performances as well as the main parameters using a demonstration prototype.

Furthermore, a group of post graduate students from the University of Concordia Montréal, Canada was put together to design and realize a flying prototype representative of the PX200 in the take-off mode. The group is managed by a post doctorate and supervised by Professor Marius Paraschivou, director of the CIADI (Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design&Innovation) and supervised by the Engineer Professor Dominique Ng (Mechanical and Industrial Department)

This “premiere” take-off was produced in April 2011!

As for the Avionics: Everything needs to be invented!

What about Space Propulsion?

The Thermoreactor for space propulsion could appear to be in “great shape” since by nature, there is nothing dragging it down in the vacuum environment. Therefore the pulsation mode can be most interesting, where the maximum speed will only be limited by the amount of propellant contained in the reservoirs.

The goal will be to optimize the thruster’s combustion chamber’s volume in accordance with the maximum obtainable pressure in CVC per UoP. In other words the mass of propellant consumed at each pulse. It is also necessary to optimize the number of UoP once we have defined the desired maximum speed (20, 30 or 50 km/s!) as well as the duration of the space voyage.

concept xplorair 19

The first studies indicate that an optimum for the Thermoreactor is reached, when the ratio maximum thrust / masse of fuel (Pmax/m0) peaks at a compression ratio near 2.5. Therefore, the duration of the space voyage for Mars would depend on :

1- The desired maximum speed, Vmaxi
2- The mass of propellant / dry mass, Mpropellant/Mvehicle
3- The injection pressure
4- The number (N) of Units of Propulsion
5- The minimum duration to reach the cruising speed: Vrelease
6- The propulsion ratio identified by: maximum thrust/mass of fuel by Cycle : (Pmax/m0).Tcycle

The equation of the maximum speed for the “Thermopropulsed spaceship” is:

Vmaxi = Vrelease + [(Pmax/m0).Tcycle].Ln[1 + Mpropellant/Mvehicle]

In these conditions:

  • The optimized propulsion ratio (Pmax/m0) at 2.5
  • Tcycle=20ms (cycle duration of the combustion chamber)
  • the mass of fuel ratio to dry mass,Mpropellant/Mvehicle = 7
  • the propellant H2-O2 in gas state
  • and finally the initial release speed, Vrelease = 11,2 km/s
    The maximum speed achieved by this spaceship under these conditions would be Vmaxi = 30 km/s

Then, the acceleration phase duration is given by: Dacceleration = (1/N).Tcycle.(Mpropellant/m0)

With the number of Units of Propulsion of N= 10 we obtain: Dacceleration = 0,12days

(Against 2 x 6 month at the moment)


The first collaboration of Xplorair with Dassault Systems begun in march of 2008 via Richard Breitner’s “passion for Innovation*” program, it was followed by the intervention of EADS Innovation Works in march of 2009. These first steps can easily be compared to the 2 first stages of the “Xplorair rocket”.

We would also like to mention the implication of the Fluid Mechanics Department of l’ISAE/Ensica (engineering School), with its first measurements on the Coanda effect simulation performed by the sophomore students in of 2007-2008. Finally, special thanks to the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce (ESC) of Toulouse (Toulouse Business School) with Gérard Drouet, director of the masters in “Management of Innovation and technology”. His students performed a case study** throughout the years 2008 (vehicle), 2009(Thermoreacteur©) and 2011 (co-generation) that was recognized by the experts in the industry as very thorough and professional.

** Identification des marchés civils : liaisons inter et intra cités, aérotaxis, véhicule de secours, et à long terme (15 ans) véhicules personnels pour le grand public. Marchés militaires : transport de troupes en des lieux inaccessibles, liaisons inter bases, drones offensifs et d’observation…

The goal of Xplorair Project?

“Offer the 3rd dimension to mankind before the turn of the 21st century!”

concept xplorair 20

Aeronautic and Aerospace Association of France

Technical Committee: « Light weight Aviation & and derived engines »
Vice-president « Innovative machine and design »