Brian Deis, president of Dream RC Airplanes, came to a crossroads about 10 years ago. He and his company had a knack for building wooden models for use in International Miniature Aerobatics Club (IMAC) competitions. He himself had built and flown wooden models for much of his life.
But the market had rapidly shifted toward ARFs – Almost Ready to Fly – models, meaning models that still required radio control gear and engine installation. Therefore, Deis shifted his focus toward higher-end clients, many of them in Europe.
Seemingly overnight, his company had gone from building wooden models to installing flying systems for largely composite models. But the unchartered territory didn’t end there. Most of his European clients insisted on electric engines, not the gas-powered ones to which he was accustomed. And they wanted them on planes bigger than what an electric engine could typically accommodate.
At that time, the fans used for air intake with electric motors were too small to power a big plane. Additionally, he’d have to adapt these planes in other ways to suit the electric motors, and Deis didn’t have an electrical engineer on staff.
He turned to Schübeler Technologies.
“It’s subtle, how you go about putting all that together,” Deis said. “The thrust, for instance, that thrust tube can be different sizes depending on whether you want power or you want speed. That’s where Christian Wileschek and everybody at Schübeler came in because we didn’t know what those numbers were. They worked with us over the years to be sure we know, because the numbers aren’t simple at all.”
A key to Dream RC Airplanes’ success over the past decade has been Schübeler Technologies’ work in the area of Electric Ducted Fans (EDFs), Deis said.
When Deis and his company began fitting planes with electric engines, the 50-millimeter fans used for intake at the time simply weren’t suited for big planes. Flash forward to today, backed by Schübeler’s EDF technology, Dream RC Airplanes installs electric flying systems on planes at sizes just not possible a decade ago. And the Schübeler-made EDFs make these planes comparable to gas jets, Deis said.
As Dream RC worked on larger and larger planes for customers, it had to learn not only about EDF installation, but also gas conversion. A crucial factor in the conversion process is the plane’s center of gravity, Deis said. In a gas plane that center of gravity shifts during the flight due to the burning of fuel, whereas an electric plane comes down at the same weight at which it went up.
“That’s where you need to get your heads together with the folks at Schübeler, particularly with Christian, and find out how we’re going to put motors in that thing from the standpoint of thrust,” Deis said. “Once that’s done then we have to figure out physically how to get the motors into it.”
One of the more popular gas to electric conversions by Dream RC was a 17-foot-plus Boeing 747 model, painted in Virgin Atlantic airlines branding. A video of this aircraft, prior to the electric conversion, has been viewed approximately 29 million times on YouTube. The six-minute segment, uploaded in August 2015, displays the the 17-foot-plus Boeing 747 model, which was at the time one of the largest in the world, taking off from a rural airstrip, and conducting a series of flybys for a delighted crowd before landing smoothly.
It had taken Deis and his team 90 days to convert that 747 to electric, and they even managed to add a little more power and shave a little weight off the previously gas-powered plane.
Schübeler Technologies’ support of his company has evolved, Deis said. As Dream RC dove into the world of electric-powered planes, Schübeler helped it learn how to install EDFs. Now that Dream RC has that down, Schübeler’s consultation services remain invaluable, helping Deis and his team figure out which components will work best for a particular plane. And after assemblage, Dream RC runs a series of tests on the plane and sends the results to Schübeler, which analyzes the data.
“There’s no one in the world that knows more about it than the Schübeler folks. So, we listen carefully to all of that,” Deis said. “Their support doesn’t end when the airplane’s done. If we have any suspicions about the airplane, they’re right there to help us.”
To further thrive, Dream RC keeps on top of the latest advances in industries like paint and adhesives, Deis said. And while his company generally doesn’t need help in the planning and designing area of aeromodelling – the company’s bread and butter – it has relied on Schübeler in certain circumstances for its computer modeling and advanced research on high-quality electric drive systems for model aircraft technology. For instance, before it constructed the largest electric airplane ever built – an A380 airbus – Dream RC relied on Schübeler’s advanced information to help determine the plane’s center of gravity and properly design the plane.
Dream RC invested a staggering 3100 hours in the building of the 21-foot A380 airbus. The request had come from a customer who’d seen a similar 18-foot, gas-powered plane. Dream RC had the capabilities to build a plane of that size, but the largest EDFs available at the time weren’t nearly powerful enough to power an electric version.
Schübeler got to work on bigger EDFs, ones capable of powering the plane’s four motors with 50 pounds of thrust apiece. Meanwhile, Dream RC sought to overcome the other big, technical challenges in flying such a large, electric-powered plane.
To help get the center of gravity right, Dream RC built a 3-foot version to study things like the Lamner flow numbers and lift of the wings. Its electrical engineer ensured that, with nearly 80 pounds of batteries on board, no electrical errors doom the plane.
The recently arrived, newly created DS-215-DIA HST Impeller from Schübeler completed the project. The 300-pound monster of a plane, which requires two vans to transport it, is ready to go. Deis said his company has taxied it and will fly it with the customer soon.
While Dream RC is happy to accommodate customers desiring passenger models that fly straight and look real, Deis said, the company’s passion is in building the unique. Deis points to Dream RC’s work converting a Falcon 7X Aviation Design and solving the landing problems accompanying that conversion. He also points to a project the company took up on its own – an aerobatic, twin-engine jet airplane with a lot of power.
Presently Dream RC is collaborating with Schübeler on the conversion of the ultra-fast Diamond from Aviation Design. Its sleek design makes its conversion the type of challenge Deis relishes. He is confident their work will lead to an electric-powered plane that travels at more than 100 miles per hour.
With the successful transformation of his own company, Deis has an eye toward transforming the American market. EDFs have gained popularity in the States, he said, but the fans used are the 50-millimeter variety. This will change with the creation of larger planes that are affordable, uncomplicated and safe. He also hopes to break into the very small, high-end market Stateside. Deis estimates his company has installed more Schübeler EDFs than any other builder. And no doubt Schübeler Technologies will be alongside Deis and his team going forward.
“If you try to do it without somebody that’s really good on the technical side,” Deis said, “you’re probably not going to produce an airplane that flies very well.”