With the development of electric aviation, short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft can become a practical alternative to vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The latter uses an enormous amount of energy during takeoff, thereby dramatically limiting their flight range. A Northern California-based aviation startup, Metro Hop, wants to solve this problem with a STOL plane that can get aloft much more efficiently, without needing a whole lot of runway.
The Metro Hop aircraft is structured around a game-changing, international patent pending Active Landing Gear system used to accelerate the plane to flight speed on takeoff and decelerate the plane after landing. It also does away with the need for propeller-based ground acceleration and deceleration currently used in conventional planes.
Instead, it will be equipped with an electric motor on at least one of the wheels to provide efficient acceleration on the ground. This combines with the large wings to help the aircraft achieve the takeoff speed fast. The company claims that its full-size prototype aircraft will get airborne in as little as a 25-meter rubber roll-out airstrip.
In addition, the landing gear is also equipped with dedicated levers to raise or lower and tilt the body of the plane rearward to provide maximum lift and drag when needed. The landing gear folds out of the way once you’re airborne to reduce drag.
The Metro Hop plane will be able to reach a cruising speed of up to 400 km/hr (250 mph) and have a 200 km (125 miles) range with current battery technology. At the moment of landing, the extendable legs can help cushion the brisk landing you get when you try to pull up quickly.
Metro Hop is considering STOL aircraft as an alternative to the VTOL air taxis that are being developed everywhere. For example, it could take off with passengers or cargo from the roof of a high-rise apartment building or skyscraper. The developers also suggest that STOL runways around 60 m (200 ft) long on top of skyscrapers could enable safe Skyport-style passenger operations with a much lower energy cost than eVTOL vertiports. However, the problem is that there are still not so many buildings with such roofs in the world.
Another option is to use the Metro Hop aircraft as a mid-mile cargo transport between cities. Day or night, the Metro Hop aircraft can fly from outlying fulfillment and distribution centers to close-in urban airports in minutes. According to the company, four Metro Hop aircraft can move the same volume of cargo as 40 trucks, and they can do it 20 times faster.
The metro Hop design is still got to get the cash together to develop and build the thing. It has received grants through ESA (European Space Agency) BIC Bavaria, one of the most successful incubation centers in Europe. With this grant from the ESA, Metro Hop is one step closer to realizing this transformative, all-electric technology.