STOL, VTOL, eVTOL, electric aircraft, electric propulsion, short takeoff and landing, aircraft design, optimization, propellers


While vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have shown promise for urban air transport, distributed electric propulsion on existing aircraft may offer immediately implementable alternatives. Distributed electric propulsion could potentially decrease takeoff distances enough to enable thousands of potential inter-city runways. This conceptual study explores the effects of a retrofit of open-bladed electric propulsion units. To model and explore the design space we use blade element momentum method, vortex lattice method, linear-beam finite element analysis, classical laminate theory, composite failure, empirically-based blade noise modeling, motor and motor-controller mass models, and gradient-based optimization. With liftoff time of seconds and the safe total field length for this aircraft type undefined, we focused on the minimum conceptual takeoff distance. We found that 16 propellers could reduce the takeoff distance by over 50% compared to the optimal 2 propeller case. This resulted in a conceptual minimum takeoff distance of 20.5 meters to clear a 50 ft (15.24 m) obstacle. We also found that when decreasing the allowable noise by approximately 10 dBa, the 8 propeller case performed the best with a 43% reduction in takeoff distance compared to the optimal 2 propeller case. This resulted in a noise-restricted conceptual minimum takeoff distance of 95 meters.

Original Publication Citation

Moore, K., and Ning, A., “Takeoff and Performance Tradeoffs of Retrofit Distributed Electric Propulsion for Urban Transport,” Journal of Aircraft, Aug. 2019. doi:10.2514/1.C035321

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date







Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor