A Look At Embraer’s Remotely Piloted Modular “FLEXCRAFT”

Brazilian manufacture Embraer has revealed that its proposed FLEXCRAFT has won an International Design Award (IDA). The modular aircraft, which won the Transport Design category, will have short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. Perhaps its most impressive feature is its ability for its cabin to be reconfigured for different missions, allowing incredible versatility. Let’s take a closer look at the FLEXCRAFT.

Embraer FLEXCRAFT
Embraer plans for its FLEXCRAFT to have STOL capabilities. Image: Embraer

Multi-purpose design

The FLEXCRAFT’s modular design consists of a main body comprising wings and a twin-boom tail, underneath which one of several pods can be attached. This will allow the aircraft to undergo faster reconfiguration when switching between different missions. It will also allow operators greater flexibility as they will not need to fly different aircraft for different purposes. Embraer confirmed in a statement that:

Among the possibilities studied for usage are the transportation of passengers and cargo, support for civil protection activities, surveillance, aeromedical evacuation, and agriculture, among others.”

Embraer FLEXCRAFT
The FLEXCRAFT will be fitted with one of several modules, depending on its mission. Image: Embraer

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Embraer added that the development process for the award-winning design featured several different integrated aspects. These included “configuration, flexibility solutions, and production and material processes.”

Environmental considerations

Companies across the aviation industry are often factoring in environmental considerations when developing future technology. This is a particularly pressing point for aircraft manufacturers, who are placing an increasing emphasis on making their products as environmentally friendly as possible.

Embraer FLEXCRAFT
The proposed interior of a passenger-carrying FLEXCRAFT module. Image: Embraer

With this in mind, Embraer states that:

With the ability to land and take off on short lanes and use alternative energy sources, the concept seeks to foster ideas for transforming the future of air mobility, combining the human, technological, social, and economic perspectives in a sustainable manner.

Portugal’s growing aeronautics industry

Although Embraer is a Brazilian company, the FLEXCRAFT is, in fact, the product of a Portuguese consortium. This group, which comprises various Portuguese technology companies, also features one of Embraer’s principal non-Brazilian facilities, known as Embraer Portugal. Of course, the two countries have strong historical connections.

Embraer FLEXCRAFT
A rendering of a medically configured FLEXCRAFT module. Image: Embraer

With Embraer having a presence in Portugal, and the country being responsible for the consortium behind the FLEXCRAFT, the future looks bright for its aviation industry. Embraer’s Head of Research & Technology Development, Maurílio Albanese Novaes Júnior, added:

We are also grateful for the initiative of the Government of Portugal, which, under the Incentive System for Research and Technological Development (SI I&DT) of the Portugal 2020 Program, promotes scientific research and trusts Embraer as a catalyst for the local chain and the development of the Portuguese aeronautics industry.

TAP Portugal Flag Getty
The FLEXCRAFT is a sign of growth in Portugal’s aeronautics industry. Photo: Getty Images

While the FLEXCRAFT is only a design at the moment, it represents a fascinating concept that would increase operational versatility in the future. It will be interesting to see whether other manufacturers follow suit and produce similar designs in years to come.

What do you make of Embraer’s FLEXCRAFT? Will remotely piloted aircraft play an increasing role in commercial aviation in years to come? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comments.

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