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Project Example: WingCopter

The Combination of Fixed-Wing Aircraft and Quadrocopter

The WingCopter aircraft developed by ZHAW students combines the performance of a fixed-wing aircraft (Wing) with the good vertical take-off characteristics of a quadrocopter (Copter). Only 10% of the hovering power is required for cross-country flight. Up to 10 kg payload can be transported with the electric drives for one hour, which corresponds to a range of over 100 km.

Based on the UMARS project, an unmanned and autonomously flying measuring aircraft for meteorological research, the logistically complex take-off and landing phase was simplified by a vertical hovering unit. The simple operation and wide range of applications are intended to make the work of environmental scientists easier and enable measurements to be taken at almost any location that can be reached with a vehicle.

In addition to measuring air quality and analysing images of the earth's surface, the WingCopter can also determine the strength and direction of air movement. Gas transport can be calculated from this. In particular, flights close to the ground and long-term measurements offer a wide range of applications for various tasks in meteorological and geodetic research as well as in disaster relief (e.g. monitoring forest fires).

Since no airfield infrastructure is necessary, take-offs and landings are possible directly where the operations take place.

Simple Handling

Flexibly equipped containers for measuring instruments can be flanged on at the centre of gravity and quickly exchanged. An autonomously operating autopilot and a telemetry system transmitting in real time enable automatic flying of the individual measurement campaigns while actively monitoring the mission from the ground.

The aim of the project is to provide researchers with an easy-to-use tool that can be operated without specially trained staff.

Diverse Specifications

The WingCopter research aircraft can handle a large number of very different tasks. Studies conducted at the Institute of Mechanical Systems (IMES) show under which performance parameters, such as weight and size of the payload, the desired mission duration and mission profiles are possible. The aircraft is designed for high aerodynamic quality and a particularly high payload-to-tare weight ratio in order to carry larger and heavier measuring instruments such as gas sensors for climate change research. This requires extreme lightweight construction. A flight-capable demonstrator on a scale of 1:1 is used to test these assumptions and gain important experience and knowledge.


Carbon fibres are used for the supporting structure. These ensure high strength and structural rigidity with a low empty weight. The WingCopter is designed to fly with and without payload. The batteries for the four electric motors are housed in the motor mounts.

Technical Data Prototype

Span:                 4.93 m

Empty weight:    16.8 kg

Cruising speed: 110 km/h

Drive:                 Electric

Length:              2.3 m

Payload:            8.2 kg

Range:              130 km

Power:               15 kW

At a Glance

Participating Institutes and Centres: Institute of Mechanische Systems (IMES)

Project Partners: Students from various degree programmes

Financial Contribution: financed from university funds

Project Status: still in progress

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