How New Mobility Solutions are Getting Off the Ground with Next Generation CAD Tools

Wheels become rotors and the flying rescue vehicle concept takes off.

Dassault Systèmes has sponsored this post.
The E-Way Rescue Roadster takes to the air. On the ground, the arms with the outer rotors fold underneath the semi-monocoque cabin and the inner rotors tilt to become wheels. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

The E-Way Rescue Roadster takes to the air. On the ground, the arms with the outer rotors fold underneath the semi-monocoque cabin and the inner rotors tilt to become wheels. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

If the old mobility can be defined as big—as in big airplanes, ships, trains and buses—the new mobility can be thought of as the opposite: smaller, personalized, smarter and cleaner. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution that you have to adapt to (think of a metro bus that runs empty most of the time along a predetermined route belching diesel fumes), we can have a more personalized solution, such as a self-driving car that adapts to you, on your schedule, picks you up where you are and stops where you want to be.

The new air mobility foretold through the ages. The Jetson’s Space Car from the 1960 TV series (Picture courtesy of the Smithsonian.) to the Mandalorian. (Picture courtesy of StarWars.com.)

The new air mobility foretold through the ages. The Jetson’s Space Car from the 1960 TV series (Picture courtesy of the Smithsonian.) to the Mandalorian. (Picture courtesy of StarWars.com.)

The concept of this new mobility has progressed from cartoon to science fiction movies, but remains tantalizingly just over the horizon. You can watch Paul Powers, CEO of Physna, express his frustration at a future promised and not delivered in his Ted Talk, Where is my Flying Car?

While we have not discovered technology that can defy gravity as depicted in the 50 years spanning the Jetsons and Star Wars, there is promising technology, a new generation of entrepreneurs—and a mountain of investment dollars—that promise to bring a new mobility closer to reach.

With everything available today in terms of the proper tools and teamwork, there is also a new attitude of ‘everything is possible,’ including the air mobility that has been long promised. Small teams have gathered, undaunted by challenges, who see what is possible through the barriers that prevent it. A do-anything, think-better attitude perhaps best exemplified by high-tech startups. Here, concepts have leapt from cartoons to realistic visual simulations and prototypes.

As Clemenceau said, war it too important to be left to the generals; these new entrepreneurs have said cars are too important to be left to the automobile companies (Elon Musk with Tesla), space travel too important for NASA (private space launches) and supersonic flight too important to be left to big aviation (Boom, a 150-person aerospace startup).

The Flying Rescue Vehicle

Nothing demands quick response more than a medical emergency. Enter the pandemic.

Riding his bike down a Paris street with no traffic in April of 2020, Tony Parez-Edo Martin is passed by an ambulance going full-speed. It was probably delivering a patient fighting for their life to a hospital, Tony imagines. But the streets would not always be so deserted and the trip not always so quick when the pandemic lifts and city traffic snarled. What then? Lives would be lost. A solution popped into his head. Why not take to the air? What if the patient could be transported as a bird would fly, from one point to another? Not have to negotiate turns and traffic, not have to put motorists, pedestrians and cyclists at risk?

The initial concept for Tony’s flying rescue vehicle on a notepad was refined onscreen with tablet input then accurately modeled in CATIA.

The initial concept for Tony’s flying rescue vehicle on a notepad was refined onscreen with tablet input then accurately modeled in CATIA.

Tony spent the next few days feverishly sketching concepts of a flying rescue vehicle, taking into account how it had to be small, light, able to operate on the ground and able to fly over an urban landscape. A fan of biomimicry, he borrowed tried and true natural designs in his work. What is better than an egg shape for a thin, light and strong exterior, for example? What were wheels when the vehicle was on the ground tilted to become four of the eight rotors, enabling vertical takeoff. It would be powered by hydrogen, avoiding the weight of batteries as well as the pollution of hydrocarbon fuel.

Tony was fully aware of the role of designer, which he explains is distinct from the role of the engineer in France. A designer is free to dream, mindful of but not completely encumbered by physical realities. But Tony knew that in order for his dream to become reality and for the flying ambulance (later renamed the E-way Roadster) to lift from his sketchpad to the air, engineers would have to get involved.

Engineering help came from Dassault Systèmes, a company as like-minded in helping people with its ideas and technology as Tony. In fact, Dassault Systèmes, seemed to be yearning for an air mobility solution. Posters showing small vertical takeoff aircraft concepts adorned the halls of the company’s user meetings. It was a match made in design heaven.

Dassault Systèmes volunteered its design and simulation software, a standard in the aerospace industry, as well as engineering expertise to the effort. The concept leapt from Tony’s notebook to CATIA to become a 3D model. Lyna Etienne Lenormand, R&D Strategic Partnership Senior Manager at Dassault Systèmes, used Simulia to do several iterations of lightweighting the chassis, shell and other parts to make sure it could get off the ground. Carbon fiber replaced metal, also lightening the load.

Others on the team were Arnaud Castéran, CATIA Offer Marketing Manager; Quentin Cramette, 3DS Cloud Solution Consultant; and Naïma El Gharbaoui, online industry process consultant. Medical advice was freely given by Taymme Hachem and Isabelle Arroyo, both general practitioners in Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris, Europe’s biggest hospital system. Though everyone was in or near Paris, the pandemic prevented them working together. The team had to rely on emails, teleconferences and the collaboration built into Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

The platform, being cloud-based, let them have access to the tools as needed and keep working while being physically—and safely—isolated with no slowdown of the project. While factories and businesses shut down around the country, the E-way team kept going forward using the cloud. The story of the E-Way Roadster is still being told, and its challenges still being met. Tony is crestfallen after being told a medical professional must accompany the patient in flight, effectively doubling the live weight aboard. After many lightweighting iterations, the team had succeeded in making a single passenger airborne—in theory. 

Not fully explained is the guidance system. The E-Way Roadster is presumably an autonomous vehicle, since a patient in distress cannot be expected to pilot it. This would introduce a level of complexity not addressable by the current team. Or is it meant to be remotely flown, like a drone? Stay tuned here for more of the story as it develops.

The E-Way Roadster serves as an example of what someone with innovative ideas can accomplish with the right team and the right tools, even during a global pandemic. Here is a modern, collaborative design process where a small team can punch far above their weight.

Go 3D

Have a great idea pop into your head? Don’t reach for a pencil and try to find your notebook. Get it into 3D as soon as possible. 3DSketch, a 3DEXPERIENCE application, lets you get your idea into the computer where it can be used for accurate design models. (Picture courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Have a great idea pop into your head? Don’t reach for a pencil and try to find your notebook. Get it into 3D as soon as possible. 3DSketch, a 3DEXPERIENCE application, lets you get your idea into the computer where it can be used for accurate design models. (Picture courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Go to 3D modeling as soon as possible. You may find yourself wanting to start sketching in your notebook, on a cocktail napkin or the proverbial back of an envelope—but if at all possible, start the sketch on your computer or tablet. Several sketching programs let you draw in 3D, which gives you a head start when you refine your ideas into accurate CAD models.

When a design is being conceived, how can you make sure you have considered all possibilities? What if you have constrained yourself by taking a familiar path? You might want to let your computer have a shot. Weren’t computers supposed to help with design in the first place? Enter computational design, which explores unimagined design solutions.

When a design is being conceived, how can you make sure you have considered all possibilities? What if you have constrained yourself by taking a familiar path? You might want to let your computer have a shot. Weren’t computers supposed to help with design in the first place? Enter computational design, which explores unimagined design solutions.
Complex and bio-inspired shapes and generative patterns with computational design.

Complex and bio-inspired shapes and generative patterns with computational design.

Let Your Computer Really Help

Are you sure your design is the optimum one? Topology optimization and generative design, or computational design for short, are not constrained by history or design biases and just might “think” of a better design. Give it a shot. You can be confident that every design resulting from a computational design program will satisfy your design constraints because they have been entered as prerequisites. Therefore, a computationally designed shape will be strong enough, stiff enough or aerodynamic enough—and with any luck, it may be a better one.

Validate

For all the parts not optimized by computational design (which is most of them), you should ensure that they will be able to withstand the rigors of use. Validation can be attained by building prototypes and testing; that is what big companies do, because they can. Smaller companies, with fewer resources, can bypass much testing by doing simulation, which is both faster and less expensive. You may have to run a test eventually, for final certification as regulation may demand, but with simulation, you will arrive for the test with all the confidence that you will pass.

Collaboration is more important now than ever. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Collaboration is more important now than ever. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Stay in Touch

The smaller your team, the more important that you make use of each other’s diverse and deep talent. Having the ability to collaborate in real time and doing it easily, without silos of information at each desk, with everyone being able to look at all of it for the whole design, is not only possible with cloud-based collaboration—it is necessary. Especially when you are not all in one location, as is quite often the case these days.

Manage It

A democratic design project can become chaotic—if you let it. If you don’t have the funding to hire a project manager, why not use the software equivalent: PLM. PLM software can not only grant access to all the moving parts in your dream design, but it can also restrict access. For example, you may not want every possible vendor to see parts they will be bidding on. You may want to shield your brilliant design from every curious and competitive startup, or from investors while you are still resolving issues.

Show Off

Finally, it is time to show off the finished design. This is no time to be modest. You will want to make sure your investors are properly impressed. Forget the normal screen captures in PowerPoint slides, because they do not do your design justice. You can avoid the slides that won’t advance, the inserted video that won’t play. Why not show them the 3D models, beautifully rendered and animated? Better yet, immerse your audience in the design with virtual reality.

To learn more, visit Dassault Systèmes