Czech engineers develop pilotless aircraft for urban transport


‘Miya’ is an aeroplane with a difference – designed to carry up to four passengers, she can fly without a pilot. She is also intended primarily for getting around in cities – and can do so almost completely silently.

How do you like to travel around the city? Tram? Metro? Car? Well, in the future you may be doing it in a Czech-developed pilotless passenger aircraft called ‘Miya’.

Admittedly, that future is still quite far off – at the moment, the four-passenger aircraft only exists as a computer-generated visualisation and in scale models. But engineers at the Czech Aerospace Research Centre are working hard to test how the real aeroplane would behave in various – often extreme – conditions. For example, by placing a scaled-down (1:6) model deliberately upside down in a wind tunnel that can simulate speeds of up to 300 km/h, they can see how the tail of the plane pointing downwind would affect its flight.

The Czech project is being developed with support from the Ministry of Industry and draws on the know-how of foreign partners. Intended for both civil and military purposes, the plane will be made from light carbon and composite materials and is designed to be practically silent. Because it will be powered by an electric motor – or, more accurately, four electric motors – there will be practically no noise at all during the flight.

Although the plane will have a range of up to 300 kilometres, it is intended primarily for urban transport – and with its quiet motors, it won’t add to noise pollution and thus will be able to fly in city centres, for example directly between two buildings.

Photo: ČT24/VZLÚ

The plane is also capable of vertical flight, take-off and landing – although one of the final problem areas that the developers are currently working on is the tricky transition from vertical to horizontal flight. Because the roughly 300-kilowatt-each electric motors are in the wings and make up most of the weight of the aircraft, the centre of gravity of the plane shifts significantly during this transition.

Although it is still in the test phase of development, the first tests with a larger model have already been completed. All being well, in spring the engineers at the Aerospace Research Centre plan to run tests with the first life-size model, with a wingspan of about 15 metres.