The General Office of the State Council of the PRC has recently issued a circular proposing to accelerate the strategic development of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) in China. The circular urges to bring the development of UAM into China’s National Strategies and to formulate relevant policies and standards to promote the healthy development of the industry, with the intent being...
The General Office of the State Council of the PRC has recently issued a circular proposing to accelerate the strategic development of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) in China. The circular urges to bring the development of UAM into China’s National Strategies and to formulate relevant policies and standards to promote the healthy development of the industry, with the intent being the accelerate the progress of China towards large scale, commercially deployed on demand aerial mobility operations.
The circular also included urges to speed up the legislative process and promulgation of the official Interim Measures for Flights Administration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). These measures intend to to establish a comprehensive regulatory mechanism for UAVs.
The circular also highlights the potential application of firefighting UAVs. It calls for establishing industrial standards and regulations to facilitate technological innovations that will promote industrial and practical applications of UAVs in aerial firefighting use cases – which indicates that companies such as EHang rightly have a seat at the table for these policymaking measures and are lobbying to attain provisions that benefit specific future use cases of the technology.
EHang’s Founder, Chairman and CEO, Huazhi Hu commented on the circular: “This circular issued by the State Council reflects the Chinese government’s great emphasis and strategic support for the new UAM industry. This will undoubtedly fuel the rapid development of UAM in China.”
Why it’s important: Integration of physical hardware on aircraft early on in the design process is crucial, and similarly, integration of policymaking is equally important to generate regulations that actually apply to the industry, are relevant, effective, and efficient in their guidance for deployment of larger scale operations. Where many regulations for fixed wing aircraft were established decades ago, the opportunity with aerial mobility to define again key regulations is a unique chance to create a dynamic but appropriate framework for the future. Authorities such as those in China are working away diligently, as are those in Europe and the United States. In a utopian sense, common regulation across national and continental boundaries would be the most relevant standardization of requirements, but it’s more than likely that differing political requirements and priorities would prevent such a scheme from ever coming to fruition.
Source // PR Newswire
AMSL Aero has unveiled the latest results of the development in their eVTOL aircraft, a full-scale prototype vehicle called the Vertiia. The Vertiia will be able to fly up to 800 km (500 miles) on hydrogen, and will start out as an air ambulance. Developed in conjunction with the University of Sydney and Mission Systems, AMSL Aero’s Vertiia is a...
AMSL Aero has unveiled the latest results of the development in their eVTOL aircraft, a full-scale prototype vehicle called the Vertiia. The Vertiia will be able to fly up to 800 km (500 miles) on hydrogen, and will start out as an air ambulance. Developed in conjunction with the University of Sydney and Mission Systems, AMSL Aero’s Vertiia is a transitioning multirotor eVTOL, with eight large propellers mounted on two wide carbon fiber poles extending from the upper tail and lower front of the fuselage. According to AMSL Aero, the Vertiia is rated to cruise at around 300 km/h (186 mph) and it’ll be piloted on debut, but will have autonomous capabilities built in, ready to come online when such things become legal.
The Vertiia will initially possess a range of around 250 km (155 miles) using battery-powered technology that’ll require long charges between flights. Eventually, AMSL Aero plans on extending the range to 800 km (500 miles) by replacing the batteries with a hydrogen powertrain, which will also enable quicker refueling.
The Vertiia’s first consumer will be CareFlight, an aeromedical company that looks to use eVTOL as an air ambulance, providing aerial access to remote communities may not have the ability to receive conventional medical aircraft. AMSL Aero plans to have the Vertiia commercially available by 2023.
Why it’s important: With the completion of a full-scale prototype, AMSL Aero has reached an important milestone in the development of the Vertiia, and can now begin flight tests in earnest. AMSL Aero has big plans for the Vertiia, aiming for both autonomous capability and hydrogen-powered flight in the future. While implementing these features as well as obtaining certification by 2023 will be no easy task, AMSL Aero’s current progress rate is an encouraging indicator of their future outlook.
Source // New Atlas
Australian startup Airspeeder has been working on building an eVTOL ‘flying race car’ for several years. Now, after gaining many rounds of funding, several partnerships, and constructing multiple prototypes, the company is nearing completion of its full-scale air racer. The completed ‘Alauda MK4’ will be a single-seater, lightweight, manned racing aircraft capable of flying at speeds up to 130km/h (80mph),...
Australian startup Airspeeder has been working on building an eVTOL ‘flying race car’ for several years. Now, after gaining many rounds of funding, several partnerships, and constructing multiple prototypes, the company is nearing completion of its full-scale air racer.
The completed ‘Alauda MK4’ will be a single-seater, lightweight, manned racing aircraft capable of flying at speeds up to 130km/h (80mph), up to 12 minutes per swappable battery. Airspeeder’s goal is to build momentum for the world of eVTOL by creating a high-speed racing grand prix series with its aircraft. Alauda MK4s will be equipped with Acronis cybersecurity software, which will allow for near-field head to head racing while preventing collisions.
In its latest developments, Airspeeder has hired Aaron Mourney, a new workshop technician, and Mitch Bannink as Chief Remote Pilot. The hiring of Bannink is particularly significant, as it indicates that Airspeeder is reaching the flight testing stage for the MK4. Airspeeder has already picked locations for its first air races, hoping to begin races as early as next year, and has even begun to seek out pilots to participate from backgrounds in military, civil UAV, motorsports and even E-Sports.
Why it’s important: Airspeeder is calling its MK4 aircraft the ‘Formula 1 of the skies’; as the intention of the air race series is push forward the industry of sustainable electric flight. The ultimate goal of Airspeeder is to make ‘flying cars’ a reality sooner rather than later, through the medium of motorsport, just as auto motorsport encouraged the development of affordable and accessible auto transport.
SkyDrive, a leader in aerial mobility development in Japan, has announced plans to participate in a public-private roundtable to realize aerial mobility in Osaka and the surrounding region. The company last week said in a press release that it plans to participate in an ongoing roundtable focusing on the implementation of a “moving revolution society” over the skies of Osaka...
SkyDrive, a leader in aerial mobility development in Japan, has announced plans to participate in a public-private roundtable to realize aerial mobility in Osaka and the surrounding region. The company last week said in a press release that it plans to participate in an ongoing roundtable focusing on the implementation of a “moving revolution society” over the skies of Osaka with a focus to bring eVTOL to the public by 2023.
SkyDrive is a Japan’s leader in aerial mobility development, having already developed a single-seater prototype for its vehicles as well as concepts for future infrastructure. The company believes its participation in the roundtable will prove essential to raising awareness of its brand, and getting necessary investments from public/private stakeholders to realize its vision for the future of transportation.
The idea of a roundtable in Osaka was formed in December of 2018 by the Ministry of Economy and Trade and the Ministry of Land/Infrastructure/Transport/Tourism. Together, they expect aerial mobility to be a commercially viable industry and service to the public by 2023. Their stated priority is to provide aerial mobility services for urban transportation, tourism, medical treatment and disaster response.
At the roundtable’s inaugural ceremony, Mr. Hirofumi Yoshimura, the Governor of Osaka Prefecture, commented that, “Osaka, the bay area in particular, is suitable for the flying car business both geopolitically and as an economic hub. The spirit of Yatteminahare (Just do it) is valued in Osaka. Just get on with it.”
In it’s press release, SkyDrive commented, “We at SkyDrive see the Osaka-Kansai Japan World Expo 2025 as a milestone on the road toward the full-scale realization of an air mobility society and as such will aim to take a leading role in the upcoming roundtable conferences, seeking to drive forward the discussion and organize practical demonstrations of how flying cars work and can transform urban mobility. We intend to liaise with all concerned parties and make concrete proposals to contribute to the work of the Public-Private Conference of Japan and will strive to improve social acceptance of flying cars, in partnership with a group of stakeholders that we expect to include about 40 companies.”
Why it matters: 2020 has had no shortage of public/private partnership announcements. With the aerial mobility industry turning the corner on the technology requirements to realize eVTOL platforms, the next step will be getting buy-in from local and federal governments. Moving ahead, SkyDrive plans to work on its aerial mobility platform in collaboration with the national government, the Osaka prefecture, and other companies in the region.
Ampaire is a Los Angeles-based company whose mission is to be the world’s most trusted developer of practical and compelling electric aircraft. To start, the company is retrofitting existing passenger aircraft to electric power – the quickest and most capital efficient approach to making commercial electric air travel a reality. Ampaire flew the largest hybrid electric aircraft at the time...
Ampaire is a Los Angeles-based company whose mission is to be the world’s most trusted developer of practical and compelling electric aircraft. To start, the company is retrofitting existing passenger aircraft to electric power – the quickest and most capital efficient approach to making commercial electric air travel a reality. Ampaire flew the largest hybrid electric aircraft at the time in May 2019, and they have recently accomplished the longest flight to date for any commercially relevant aircraft employing electric propulsion, in this case a hybrid-electric propulsion system.
Ampaire’s Electric EEL, a six-seat Cessna 337 twin-engine aircraft modified with an electric motor in the nose and traditional combustion engine in the rear, took off from Camarillo Airport just north of Los Angeles at 12:20 PM. Test pilot Justin Gillen and Flight Test Engineer Russell Newman, flew up California’s Central Valley at 8,500 feet, landing at Hayward Executive Airport at 02:52 PM. Straight line distance was 292 statute miles, and the route as flown 341 statute miles.
Speed during the cruise portion of the 2 hour, 32-minute flight averaged around 135 mph. “The mission was a quite normal cross-country flight that we could imagine electrified aircraft making every day just a few years from now,” Gillen said.
This milestone in electric aviation took place after four weeks of flight testing in the Camarillo area for this second Electric EEL test aircraft, which first flew on September 10th. In that period, the aircraft flew over 30 hours during 23 flights, in 28 days, with 100% dispatch reliability. “Our success in taking this aircraft in a short period from the test environment to the normal, everyday operating environment is a testament to our development and test organization, and to the systems maturity we have achieved with our second aircraft,” said Ampaire General Manager Doug Shane. A former president of Scaled Composites, Shane is one of the world’s foremost experts on the development and flight testing of new aviation concepts.
The EEL flown to Hayward is dubbed the Hawaiʻi Bird, as it will take part later this year in a series of demonstration flights with Hawaiʻi-based Mokulele Airlines on its short-haul routes. The flight trials with Mokulele will not only demonstrate the capabilities of the EEL but will help to define the infrastructure required for wide adoption of electric aviation by airlines and airports. These flight demonstrations will mark the first time an electrically-powered aircraft has flown under an FAA “Market Survey” experimental aircraft certificate in order to gain real-world flight experience.
In Hayward, the aircraft will be partially disassembled for shipment to Hawaiʻi. The Hawaiʻi flight trials are funded in part by Elemental Excelerator, a global climate-tech accelerator based in Honolulu.
The Electric EEL can generate fuel and emissions savings up to 50 percent on shorter regional routes where the aircraft’s electrical propulsion unit can be run at high power settings, and generate savings of about 30 percent on longer regional routes such as the Camarillo to Hayward flight.
“The Electric EEL is our first step in pioneering new electric aircraft designs,” said Ampaire CEO Noertker. “Our next step will likely be a 19-seat hybrid electric retrofit program that will lower emissions and operating costs, benefiting regional carriers, their passengers and their communities.” Ampaire, with funding from NASA and others, is in the midst of design studies for such an aircraft based on the popular de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft. Ampaire has named the hybrid-electric 19-seater aircraft the Eco Otter SX.
Why it’s important: Ampaire’s strategic approach to retrofitting existing aircraft has allowed the company to rapidly progress in the development of its propulsion technology and demonstrate the potential for making commercial electric air travel a reality. The Los Angeles-based startup has achieved so in the most capital-efficient manner, and is well-positioned to continue its progress given its current partnerships and funding. As said by Ampaire General Manager Doug Shane, “the ability to put innovative electric technologies into the air rapidly in order to assess and refine them is central to Ampaire’s strategy to introduce low-emissions aircraft for regional airlines and charter operators within just a few years.”
Source // Ampaire press release
The concept of detect-and-avoid technology is not new or novel – but startup Iris Automation is drilling down to truly focus on what works and what doesn’t in efforts to develop an out-of-box system that’s readily applicable to commercial Part 107 drone operators, fixed wing aircraft, and aerial mobility operations of the future. The company’s mission, to “Make flying safer...
The concept of detect-and-avoid technology is not new or novel – but startup Iris Automation is drilling down to truly focus on what works and what doesn’t in efforts to develop an out-of-box system that’s readily applicable to commercial Part 107 drone operators, fixed wing aircraft, and aerial mobility operations of the future. The company’s mission, to “Make flying safer by avoiding collisions” doesn’t include any specificity as to the means of accomplishing that goal, says CEO Jon Damush. Rather, the company is focusing their efforts on achieving their mission statement with the technology that is most adaptable for commercial drones, today.
At the core of Iris’ IP is their optical motion algorithm that can capture (using computer vision) the relative motion of objects that may be on interference paths with the subject drone/air taxi/etc. This algorithm is unique in that it can determine range using a single focal point. Traditionally, the triangulation of a focal point at a certain distance allows for range determination, similar to how the human eye works. In Iris’ case, though, this process is achieved through their proprietary algorithms that obtain useful values for range after capturing 1-2 seconds of data using a sample rate of around 10 frame/sec. After a trend is established, the Newtonian laws of motion do the rest – and can inform and alert the aircraft which the system is installed on of a collision risk. Such alerts could prevent aerial mobility aircraft to potential hazards and allow for their flight controllers to select an alternative flight path after coordination with airspace management and integration platforms.
Currently, Iris Automation’s Casia Detect and avoid (DAA) system has been implemented largely on commercial Part 107 drone operations for aerial survey and emergency medical response. In the future, this same technology could easily be installed on fixed wing aircraft (after obtaining TSO approval) or could even be used in a reverse configuration, with the camera system installed on a fixed point that then scan known targets to assess any potential interferences by unknown flying objects in a confined area. Iris CEO Damush also emphasized in an interview with TransportUP that another benefit of Iris’ technology is the ability to allow a single operator to effectively manage multiple aircraft concurrently, as attention may be divided while not sacrificing the situational awareness of a potential collision.
Iris is putting some bounds on their problem statement, as at this time the company is focused on the detection portion of DAA, and not on the interface between the sensed conflict aircraft and the flight control system; largely due to the complexity and variation in flight controller logic, stated Damush. For now, the company is delivering and improving on their Casia system in order to reach a larger range of aircraft, and also hosting conversations with manufacturers early on in the design process to develop integrated solutions where detect and avoid technology enters on the ground floor of clean sheet designs.
Certification of Casia on larger scale aircraft that already maintain type certificates from the FAA or other regulatory agencies would be via TSO authorizations (and eventual STC’s if applicable), but it’s unclear based on the currently available data how likely obtaining these approvals would be – of the total amount of drones registered in 2019 for commercial operations, the number of those then seeking additional BVLOS approval under Part 107 (flight beyond visual line of sight) was a mere 1.8%. BVLOS operations don’t necessary imply long range, rather, any operation condition where the operator cannot directly view the drone they’re operating. Such trends from regulating agencies on the rate of approval and related industry technological preparedness to support such operations are both reflective of technological maturity and operator organization.
Why it’s important: Iris Automation’s Casia detect and avoid system is poised for wider scale applications within the Part 107 drone industry, which boasted over 1.75 million new drone registrations in the year 2019 alone, around 25,000 of which were for commercial application. Aerial mobility stands to benefit from this technology, both from onboard integrated detection systems, and even potential ground-based systems that operate at vertiports to ensure airspace “safety nets” for a given location.
XTI Aircraft, famous for developing the XTI TriFan 600 VTOL passenger aircraft, is now creating a smaller, logistics & cargo version of its aircraft using VerdeGo Aero’s propulsion solutions. Although both companies were originally developing their own eVTOL aircraft, VerdeGo transitioned to becoming a provider of IDEP (integrated distributed electric propulsion) systems in September of 2018. Since then, VerdeGo has become...
Although both companies were originally developing their own eVTOL aircraft, VerdeGo transitioned to becoming a provider of IDEP (integrated distributed electric propulsion) systems in September of 2018. Since then, VerdeGo has become a prominent leader in providing electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for new kinds of VTOL aircraft, and has formed partnerships with major industry players such as Seyer Industries and Continental Aerospace. Most recently, VerdeGo tested a production-ready version of its hybrid-electric powertrain, and optimized its diesel-hybrid generator for commercial applications.
VerdeGo’s partnership with XTI may be its most important yet. For several years, XTI has been working to develop the XTI TriFan 600, a passenger hybrid-electric VTOL with impressive passenger capacity and speed and range performance statistics. Now, XTI has chosen to extend its offerings by adding a smaller, autonomous, cargo & logistics aircraft called the TriFan 200. This may be a very wise move for the company as it will help their flight technology reach more market segments and applications. The TriFan 200 will be powered by VerdeGo’s diesel (Jet-A) hybrid-electric powertrain.
According to a recent press release by VerdeGo, XTI and VerdeGo’s collaboration on the TriFan 200 will lead to outstanding operational flexibility, operating economics, and mission capability. When the program reaches commercial development and certification, the TriFan 200 aircraft will be an unmanned autonomous aircraft capable of transporting 500 lbs of cargo on missions of more than 200 nautical miles. Said Robert Labelle, CEO of XTI, “The TriFan 200 aircraft will open up a significant new market for XTI to address the needs of cargo and logistics operators globally. We are excited to be partnered with VerdeGo to leverage their experience with hybrid powertrains combined with our experience from the TriFan 600
program to create an efficient, economical, profitable VTOL aircraft for fleet operators
Why it’s important: As the era of electric and hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft inches closer to reality, it’s becoming apparent that initial use cases (especially for autonomy) will often be for cargo and logistics missions. The XTI TriFan 200 will fit this market need perfectly, allowing companies to move cargo far more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Specifically, the TriFan 200 will rapidly connect global air cargo hubs with distribution points throughout major cities, reducing the need for ground transportation of urgent deliveries. With this partnership, XTI furthers its market offerings, and VerdeGo Aero proves its capability to provide effective propulsion systems.
uAvionix announced that they will be participating in the deployment of Vantis, North Dakota’s Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) infrastructure and network. A partner of Thales’ TopSky Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform, uAvionix will provide infrastructural support to Vantis through the deployment of terrestrial command and control (C2) infrastructure and a cloud-based C2 service, enabling...
uAvionix announced that they will be participating in the deployment of Vantis, North Dakota’s Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) infrastructure and network. A partner of Thales’ TopSky Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform, uAvionix will provide infrastructural support to Vantis through the deployment of terrestrial command and control (C2) infrastructure and a cloud-based C2 service, enabling centralized management, coordination, and C2 handoffs. The successful integration of the C2 system into Vantis is an important first step for the goal of eventually introducing UAS systems into global airspace, a milestone that will be vital for integrating aerial mobility into the transportation sector.
Led by the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, the deployment of Vantis will enable future BVLOS missions across the key-site deployment area of McKenzie County, ND. A key part of that ability will come from the uAvionix’s C2 service, which will be able to monitor overall system performance, the health and signal strength of each radio on the network, location monitoring and tracking, and centralized control.
The C2 service leverages uAvionix’s microLink Airborne Radio Systems (ARS) and skyStation Ground Radio Systems (GRS) developed to ASTM standards. microLink and skyStation are dual-architecture MIMO digital frequency hopping radios which enable intelligent make-before-break (MBB) transitions from one GRS to the next in long-range operations, enhancing the overall safety case.
In addition to the C2 service, uAvionix will additionally contribute to the overall low-altitude airspace surveillance picture through the deployment of its pingStation networkable ADS-B receivers.
“Thales is excited to partner with uAvionix in North Dakota to deploy a BVLOS C2 network infrastructure and service,” said Frank Matus, Director of Digital Aviation Market Development for Thales. “uAvionix achievements in the areas of surveillance and TSO avionics is instrumental in addressing the command and communications challenges faced by the emerging UAS industry in North Dakota and across the national airspace system.”
Why it’s important: Vantis represents both an exciting possibility on its own as well as the future of UAS integration into global airspace. With this, uAvionix advances its mission to overcome operational and technical challenges of UAS integration into global airspace by providing networks with infrastructure and certified low Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) avionics for mission-critical applications.
Source // uAvionix Press Release (11/19/2020)
Dean Donovan on Deurbanization Rising: Covid-19, Remote Work And Electric Aviation Will Reshape Living Patterns
This article appeared first in Forbes and is shared on TransportUP with permission. Author Dean Donovan is the Co-Founder of Volaris, Mexico’s largest domestic carrier, current Chairman of Stellar Labs, a software company focused on global distribution technologies for private aviation, and Founder of DiamondStream Partners where he invests in aviation and travel businesses. Between 2006 and 2019, remote work expanded...
This article appeared first in Forbes and is shared on TransportUP with permission. Author Dean Donovan is the Co-Founder of Volaris, Mexico’s largest domestic carrier, current Chairman of Stellar Labs, a software company focused on global distribution technologies for private aviation, and Founder of DiamondStream Partners where he invests in aviation and travel businesses.
Between 2006 and 2019, remote work expanded 170% to the point where about 8% of people with jobs worked remotely. By August 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic helped drive that figure to 20%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Global Workforce Analytics believes percentage of telecommuters will hit 25% to 30% by the end of 2021.
According to some surveys, 99% of employees who work remotely want to continue doing so at least to some extent. It is not surprising given the large cost savings for individuals and the perceived improvement in flexibility of working hours. Businesses themselves have a huge opportunity to save on real estate costs and 94% of employers believe the productivity of their workers has been stable or has increased working from home.
San Francisco and other dense urban centers have seen rents decline rapidly under this pressure while rents and housing prices in the suburbs have risen. The pandemic and the ease of videoconferencing applications like Zoom, BlueJeans and Microsoft MSFT -1.6% Teams helped to accelerate this trend, but electric aviation will lead to profound changes in the urban landscape in ways that few expect.
The Limits of Commuting by Automobile
The push and pull workers experience between urban core and the suburbs is nothing new. Bloomberg CityLab, argues that commuting technology has defined the shape of cities since the days of ancient Rome. Bloomberg argues that a subway- or streetcar-based city could support commutes from about 50 square miles of land whereas an automobile-based city could support commuters from over 1,250 square miles of land. As American cities became automobile-centric the supply of land increased up to 25 fold and made housing less expensive. In this sense, American suburbs exist because fast, low-cost transportation in the form of trains and then cars, developed that enable people to live at a distance, while still being connected to urban centers.
In some respects, nothing has changed. All other things being equal, housing prices (and land prices) tend to fall as distance from the urban core increases. America remains a relatively sparsely populated country with enormous amounts of cheap land. For the last 70 years, cars offered the most competitive form of transportation for commuters who want cheaper space and new electric vehicles like the Tesla Model3 will only make them more competitive. In 2016, 85.4% of people commuted to work via car and another 5% via public transportation. Walking, biking and working at home made up most of the rest. And why not? Despite the sustainability challenges ICE cars create and traffic on the daily commute, autos take relatively direct routes, are cheap at about $0.37/seat mile (at average occupancy of 1.67 passengers per vehicle), have high reliability and offer workers tremendous flexibility.
In other respects, everything has changed. By the time the pandemic started, auto-based transportation had begun to hit its limits with continually increasing congestion and lengthening commute times. Cars couldn’t drive fast enough and generated too much congestion to provide access to new undeveloped land in many urban areas. In response, urban planners saw increased density and public transportation as the solution.
The remote working world will tip the incentives back from proximity toward space. On the one hand, remote work creates more demand for space as people get tired of running meetings from their laundry room and businesses demand more professionalism from home. On the other hand, remote workers will receive less value from proximity to the office. If the commuter only needs to visit the office once or twice a week, his daily commute time and cost could double and he will still end up spending less time and money than if he had a daily commute. The only thing that is missing — a transportation mode that can move people faster than 60 miles per hour.
Hybrid-Electric Aircraft, The Car’s New Commuting Competitor
Few people have a daily commute to their office by air today. Big airports are too far from most homes and workplaces. It takes too much time in the airport and too much time in traffic to and from the airport to make them practical for commuters. For example, there are only five major commercial airports in the greater Los Angeles area while forty-three smaller airports are largely unused by commercial airlines. It can take an hour to drive from the center of Santa Monica to LAX in traffic, but less than 10 minutes to drive to Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
In addition, smaller aircraft that can fly into tertiary airports today cost too much to compete with cars for commuter traffic. Total costs for a Cessna Caravan could exceed 75 cents per seat mile to operate on a mid-range route. So, a thirty-mile flight could cost the carrier $22.50 (or more for such a short flight) for which they might charge $33 one-way to the passenger. This doesn’t include the cost of getting to the airport and then from the airport to work. Pretty expensive for a trip a car could make for about $11.
Finally, smaller aircraft often struggle to offer the kind of reliable service we take for granted from commercial aircraft like the Boeing 737.
All of these things are about to change with the introduction of hybrid-electric propulsion systems for light aircraft from companies like Verdego, Ampaire and VoltAero. Although estimates vary and a material difference in savings will exist between new aircraft designs and retrofits, hybrid-electric aircraft could take direct operating costs down by half and total operating cost down by a third. This could push the cost per average seat-mile (CASM) in a hybrid-electric aircraft into the $0.30 per seat mile range, below the cost to operate a car for the same distance.
While the thirty-mile commute will probably stay in the domain of cars as the physics of putting an aircraft in flight takes a lot of energy, hybrid-electric aircraft are compelling options for 50- to 150-mile commutes. These smaller aircraft offer the potential for more direct routings than commercial aircraft because they can fly into tertiary airports like Palo Alto in the Bay Area or Santa Monica in Los Angeles. Occasional commuters who only visit the office 1-2 times a week could find this particularly compelling.
Let’s compare the commute costs for Tracy, a potential air commuter location in California’s central valley, and Hayward, an East Bay suburb of San Francisco, to Palo Alto, California. The distance from Tracy to Palo Alto is roughly sixty miles. A one-way hybrid-electric plane trip could cost the airline $18 and the airline might charge $25. If you were commuting to the office twice a week, this would cost about $100/week. Add in another $40/week for the drive to the airport, parking and a car-share to work and the commuting bill is about $140/week. The distance from Hayward to Palo Alto is twenty-two miles. A daily car trip would cost the commuter about $81 a week in auto-related costs. Add in $10 parking a day and you have a commuting bill of about $131 a week. Fairly similar costs.
Commuters can get in and out of these airports quickly and they rarely suffer the kind of congestion that often delays flights in large commercial airports. With a ten-minute drive on each end, 20 minutes in the airport at smaller terminals, and a 30-minute total flight time the multi-modal commute from Tracy to Palo Alto is an hour each way without the variability of traffic. You would spend 4 hours and forty minutes commuting if you went to the office twice a week. Car traffic has high variability in times, but assuming the median time for the 22 miles morning commute from Hayward to Palo Alto, a commuter would spend an hour and twenty minutes in the car each day or six hours a week. Advantage aircraft.
New flight control systems from companies like Skyryse and others, will increase the reliability and safety of part 135 fixed wing aviation and should increasingly reflect the impressive safety record of commercial aviation. So, for the air commuter, the chances of delay and unpredictability should decline and safety should improve — a significant advantage of flying vs. driving.
The capping argument is of course the cost of space. It is always hard to compare housing costs in two different localities as distance from the urban core is not the only driver of housing pricing. Leaving aside the systemic studies of these issues (including the one listed above), a quick look at Zillow shows the average home value in Hayward is 27% more than in Tracy and the average home value in Palo Alto is 427% more than in Tracy.
The Network and the Implications
The continued growth of remote work and the availability of faster, lower-cost long-distance transit opens up the possibilities for longer-distance commutes with limited amounts of weekly travel time and cheaper housing. The remote workers, desperate to escape videoconferences in their laundry rooms, will want the space. Work could change materially with workplaces looking more like meeting hubs for people that gather from a larger region than a traditional office. These sorts of changes could make work relationships and social relationships more regional further driving aviation demand. As the flywheel starts to spin, people will start to spread out. Developers will build new style offices meant to permit in-person meetings close to tertiary airports making longer distance commutes easier.
College-educated workers, who work from home at almost double the national rate, will lead the way. You can already see evidence of this trend at the top end of the income scale even prior to the introduction of cheaper forms of air travel. As high income commuters move further from the urban core, they will pull service jobs with them. The movement will reduce congestion in urban areas, further reducing proximity benefits and creating property utilization issues in the urban core (much like the car did in the 1970s). These trends will put pressure on urban property values and rents and support suburban property values and rents. This trend is already evident during these first months of the pandemic when rents in thirty core cities have declined by 5% while suburban rents have increased by 0.5%.
These new ‘suburbs’ will look quite different from old. Fixed-wing commuter service will create a new kind of regional carrier – a super-sized Cape Air, if you will, with the scale to drive increased operating efficiency. These airlines will build operations around tertiary airports 50-150 miles from the major urban centers with high frequencies and upgraded terminal facilities. In a kind of reverse hubbing scenario, they will build scale in each regional tertiary airport by running routes to multiple airports in the urban center. They will fly smaller aircraft with high operational tempo and asset utilization and focus on low-cost operations because they will focus on serving people spending their own money to get to work.
How many people might this system move? It doesn’t seem unreasonable that 2-3% of the population could commute in this way medium term with a higher percentage over the longer term. 124mm people live in the largest metropolitan areas in the US, so this would imply 2.5MM to 3.7MM long distance air commuters. The Bay Area has 4.7MM residents. If two percent of the population commuted this way, it would represent 10% of all (current) remote workers and 94,600 air commuters total. At two round trips weekly per remote worker, the Bay Area would need close to 350 19 seat aircraft to support the commute. Airports operational tempo would likely represent the biggest bottleneck and perhaps noise could create issues for a reliable commuter service. A large number of fixed wing operations in a controlled airspace would probably also require advances in air traffic control, safety and aircraft reliability that support a commuting environment.
Nationally, if two to three percent of the workers in the top 20 metro areas commuted via air, it would create a $12-18B market for commuter air services. Once deployed at scale, this type of commuting model will lead to regional clustering of smaller cities connected by air to the urban centers and greater regional integration rather than the more contiguous development based on highway systems that we see today.
Yet, these trends will also leave many social questions uncertain and unanswered. Will these changes be jarring and disruptive? Or will these changes integrate smoothly to ease the significant social issues of congestion and housing affordability? Will this type of mobility transformation lead to greater integration of small-town and rural America into the urban core and vice versa? Or, will we see islands of prosperous gentrification in a sea of struggling rural and small-town communities? Will this transformation hollow out the urban core? Or, will it make the core stronger by broadening its catchment area? Will it increase geographical separation of college-educated knowledge workers and the rest of society or create greater social integration as elements of those groups move into historically less prosperous areas? Will it break up the power of technology hubs like Silicon Valley and financial hubs like New York or simply extend their reach? As the technology develops, we will have the opportunity to shape the answers to build a better society.
As electric aviation rises, our society will build on a long history of urban development to break the historical suburban paradigm and create a new kind of clustered regional development that reduces housing costs while increasing regional social cohesion.
In a new partnership announced on November 16th, Wisk and NASA are partnering to advance autonomous aerial mobility. NASA has undertaken a high-level effort to lead the Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign which will aid in laying frameworks for advanced mobility of the future for multi-use aerial mobility operations. Additionally, the partnership will help to curb some of the challenges that...
In a new partnership announced on November 16th, Wisk and NASA are partnering to advance autonomous aerial mobility. NASA has undertaken a high-level effort to lead the Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign which will aid in laying frameworks for advanced mobility of the future for multi-use aerial mobility operations. Additionally, the partnership will help to curb some of the challenges that the industry faces with development of standards and certification projects.
Reportedly, special emphasis is also being placed on National Campaign safety scenarios: autonomous flight, contingency management, including collision avoidance, and flight path management.
Robert Pearce, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said, “Wisk brings a tremendous amount of experience in eVTOL vehicle development, automation technologies, and flight test, and combines it with a safety-first mindset towards advancing autonomous flight. NASA believes our partnership with Wisk will help accelerate the realization of exciting new Advanced Air Mobility missions.”
NASA and Wisk will collaborate to define future means of advancing the aerial mobility industry – while new certification standards might not be defined until they’re officially confirmed by regulating bodies such as the FAA or EASA, the joint venture will allow creation of common engineering design and development standards in order to establish common minimum operable products within the industry, and hopefully propel those that already meet or exceed standards even further. Some of these standards definition areas include flight path management, airspace integration, minimum performance requirements, and general flight procedures.
“Our partnership with NASA will bring together our market-leading expertise in autonomy with the unmatched technical capabilities of NASA,” said Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk. “The frameworks and recommendations developed through this collaboration will not only advance autonomous passenger flight but also increase the overall safety of aviation.”
Why it’s important: Wisk’s partnership with NASA is unique in that it represents a high-visibility public private partnership to advance aerial mobility between a government organization and a private company. This partnership affords both participants the opportunity to leverage the other’s resources while also mutually benefiting the entire aerial mobility industry. Such partnerships in large scale commercial aerospace are very uncommon at present since the amount of shared intellectual property would lead to eradication of most competitive advantages. While it remains to be seen the level of data disclosure that will accompany this collaboration, hopefully the benefits of NASA and Wisk’s work are able to cast a broad reach among other advanced autonomous aerial mobility development efforts.
Source // PR News Wire
Bye Aerospace, a growing developer and manufacturer of all-electric aircraft, has partnered with aviation propulsion expert Safran to power its eFlyer2 and eFlyer4 aircraft. The eFlyer2 is an advanced, all-electric trainer aircraft that has already been in the skies quite often for extensive flight testing. A $5,000 deposit is required to pre-order the aircraft, and 711 of these purchase deposits have...
Bye Aerospace, a growing developer and manufacturer of all-electric aircraft, has partnered with aviation propulsion expert Safran to power its eFlyer2 and eFlyer4 aircraft. The eFlyer2 is an advanced, all-electric trainer aircraft that has already been in the skies quite often for extensive flight testing. A $5,000 deposit is required to pre-order the aircraft, and 711 of these purchase deposits have already been made. According to Bye Aerospace, the purpose of the eFlyer is to create an environmentally sustainable aircraft for flight training and recreational purposes.
Safran, a global leader in aviation propulsion technologies, has spent much of the past few years preparing both for growing eVTOL markets and for electric propulsion in general aviation aircraft. The company has already established several partnerships for electric propulsion, including with electric aircraft developers Zunum Aero, VoltAero, Bell, and even Boeing. With these partnerships, Safran has created development efforts for eVTOL and for traditional aircraft electric propulsion, as well as created its own electric motor specifically for eVTOL.
According to Safran, its ENGINeUS TM product line includes a broad range of electric motors with power outputs from single digit to 500 kW. The ENGINeUS TM 100, which will equip eFlyer 2 & eFlyer 4, has particularly high performance and features a fully integrated motor controller within the motor package. The thermal management is provided by an optimized air-cooling system, jointly integrated by Safran & Bye Aerospace into the aircraft structure. Said George E. Bye, CEO of Bye Aerospace, “Bye Aerospace has concluded that Safran’s ENGINeUS TM 100 smart electric motor is the optimal production solution to meet the requirements of our rigorous FAA and EASA certification schedules for eFlyer 2 and eFlyer 4…We must continue forward at a high-tempo pace to meet the demands of aviation enthusiasts worldwide who have been waiting years for all-electric airplanes to come to market.”
Why it’s important: Companies like Bye Aerospace are expanding the envelope for what kind of performance specifications are possible using all-electric motors. By creating electric systems for traditional fixed wing aircraft, Bye Aerospace is getting electric flight tech in the air sooner rather than later, which will help pave the way for future applications for electric propulsion in new eVTOL aircraft and more. Notably, Bye Aerospace joins Pipistrel, MagniX, and VoltAero by flight testing and even beginning to sell all-electric aircraft.
Caravella Aerospace is in the process of developing a 2-seater partially electric roadable aircraft, the CaravellAir. (A “roadable aircraft” is a combination vehicle that combines an aircraft’s ability of flight with the on-road driving capabilities of an automobile.) According to Joe Caravella Jr, owner of Caravella Aerospace, “The CaravellAir integrates car, plane, and motorcycle components into one vehicle that can...
Caravella Aerospace is in the process of developing a 2-seater partially electric roadable aircraft, the CaravellAir. (A “roadable aircraft” is a combination vehicle that combines an aircraft’s ability of flight with the on-road driving capabilities of an automobile.) According to Joe Caravella Jr, owner of Caravella Aerospace, “The CaravellAir integrates car, plane, and motorcycle components into one vehicle that can drive or fly on demand.”
Located in Sherman Oaks, California, Caravella Aerospace has developed a one-seater prototype of the CaravellAir that has been street legal for over 8 years, and road tested for over 3000 miles from San Diego to San Francisco. For its powertrain, the CaravellAir prototype has a propeller drive system that is connected to a motorcycle engine that can push the fuselage above 80 mph (129 kph) on an active runway testing back to 2015. The fuselage itself (coupled with mock-up flight surfaces) is flight ready, and has successfully demonstrated real-world road operations up to 70 mph (113 kph). Caravella Aerospace is currently working on development of the CaravellAir flight surfaces.
Recently, Caravella Aerospace presented its proof-of-concept prototype at the SAE 2020 AeroTech Digital Summit in June of 2020. Joe Caravella Jr. described the CaravellAir prototype as “a proof-of-concept and stepping stone to a future 2-seat certified, partially-electric vehicle.”
Why it’s important: While the CaravellAir is still in the early proof-of-concept stage, its folding wing design is quite sound, and has even been flight proven on aircraft such as the Terrafugia Transition. In addition, the CaravellaAir has showed impressive progress in roadworthiness certification, something which many other roadable aircraft concepts have not yet achieved. If CaravellAir successfully finishes development through flight testing, certification, and production, the result will be an affordable, efficient aircraft that will add greatly to the growing market for privately owned roadable aircraft.
Source // Caravella Aerospace
The VerdeGo Aero team has successfully performed the first test runs of their “Iron Bird” prototype diesel-hybrid (Jet A fuel) generator system in early August. Full-power testing is now underway to accelerate development of VTOL and CTOL electric aircraft utilizing VerdeGo’s high-performance hybrid-electric powertrain to perform demanding commercial missions. VerdeGo Aero has now successfully performed its initial series of tests...
The VerdeGo Aero team has successfully performed the first test runs of their “Iron Bird” prototype diesel-hybrid (Jet A fuel) generator system in early August. Full-power testing is now underway to accelerate development of VTOL and CTOL electric aircraft utilizing VerdeGo’s high-performance hybrid-electric powertrain to perform demanding commercial missions.
VerdeGo Aero has now successfully performed its initial series of tests to validate the Iron Bird system at power output levels above 150KW. This ground-based development hardware, built around the certified Continental CD-265 high efficiency diesel aviation engine, is being used for testing to refine the weight, power output, cooling systems, and reliability of the conformal hybrid systems now being engineered for aerospace customers. The VerdeGo hybrid generator can be combined with battery packs to enable peak power output up to 0.5MW and modular twin generator systems can be stacked for 360KW continuous and 1MW peak output.
VerdeGo’s hybrid power systems are applicable to numerous next-generation electric aircraft markets including: vertical takeoff and landing urban air mobility vehicles (eVTOL), short takeoff and landing (eSTOL), and conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) aircraft. Both passenger and cargo aircraft in manned and unmanned configurations are supported by VerdeGo’s hybrid powertrain. Their diesel-hybrid system runs on globally-available Jet-A fuel consuming around 40% less fuel than competing turbine-hybrid offerings, while providing between four and eight times the endurance of competing battery-only powertrains. Compatibility with Jet A also means the VerdeGo hybrid is compatible with the bio-Jet substitute fuels under development.
“Getting the Iron Bird running not only validates the operating economics of our diesel-hybrid power generation system, it also enables us to perform hardware-in-the-loop simulations using mission profiles from our airframe customers”, says David Eichstedt, Director of Advanced Concepts. “It’s a powerful way for customers to validate the economics of their aircraft designs value proposition using real powertrain hardware without leaving the ground.” For interested parties willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement, VerdeGo is able to provide the equivalent of a traditional engine deck. This proprietary software utilizes data from the full-scale hardware testing and includes a hybrid simulation model for airframers to use that includes both the hybrid generator and the battery solution that goes with it.
Chief Executive Officer Eric Bartsch says, “VerdeGo Aero is positioned to offer the most efficient, most cost effective, low emissions hybrid system for demanding commercial aviation missions. Our Iron Bird is demonstrating the hardware platform that will power aircraft requiring up to 1MW of peak power using our highly efficient generator systems and world-class battery pack technologies.”
Why it’s important: VerdeGo’s hybrid systems provide significantly more mission capabilities than battery-packs while substantially reducing fuel consumption, emissions, operating cost, and noise when compared to turbine hybrids. The operational testing of VerdeGo’s Iron Bird is a significant step towards enabling its customers to create more competitive electric aircraft, and could provide new manufacturers with the necessary technology to commercialize aerial mobility services.
Source // VerdeGo Aero press release
EHang has today announced the completion of its maiden flight in Korea at this year’s “Open the Urban Sky” Demo Event in Seoul. Following the demonstration, the company plans to fly the 216 prototype over several major Korean cities showcasing its autonomous capabilities. The maiden flight was approved by Korea’s MOLIT after obtaining a special certificate of airworthiness for the...
EHang has today announced the completion of its maiden flight in Korea at this year’s “Open the Urban Sky” Demo Event in Seoul. Following the demonstration, the company plans to fly the 216 prototype over several major Korean cities showcasing its autonomous capabilities.
The maiden flight was approved by Korea’s MOLIT after obtaining a special certificate of airworthiness for the model, the first of its kind for an eVTOL vehicle.
The Acting Mayor of Seoul, Seo Jeong-hyup said, “The air taxi is a dream of mankind for the future transportation. We are excited that Seoul can host the country’s first domestic demo flight. Seoul is pioneering itself as an innovative hub of the world. Urban air mobility services are drawing keen attentions as an option to alleviate ground traffic congestions with a huge potential for growth. The city government will strive to realize the human dream of safe flights for Seoul citizens and thus support the future industry of Korea.”
The Korean government has committed itself to the commercialization of aerial mobility with the announcment of the Korean Urban Air Mobility (K-UAM) roadmap earlier this year. The country aims to offer commercial UAM services beginning as early as 2023.
EHang Founder, Chairman and CEO, Huazhi Hu said, “We are glad to see the Korean government taking the initiative in planning and implementing urban air mobility in Asia. This pioneering Special Certificate of Airworthiness marks a leap for both parties and builds on our regulatory breakthroughs in China, Europe, and America. We are excited to be the world’s first company to provide safe, comfortable, efficient and eco-friendly urban mobility solutions to Korea. We expect to accelerate UAM development and to expand in the Korea market in the near future.”
Why it matters: EHang adds South Korea to its growing international list of demonstration flights and bolsters its relationships with foreign governments to bring its EHang 216 prototype to market. Expect to see more of these flights around the country as EHang continues to demonstrate its technical prowess and winning business strategy.
In addition to a powerful vertical lift rotor, the new UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) from Kawasaki features two forward thrust rotors and a fixed wing for horizontal flight. It’s powered by the same supercharged H2R engine used by the company’s ‘Ninja’ motorcycle. According to Kawasaki Heavy Industries (the department of Kawasaki responsible for creating this aircraft) the two forward-facing rotors...
In addition to a powerful vertical lift rotor, the new UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) from Kawasaki features two forward thrust rotors and a fixed wing for horizontal flight. It’s powered by the same supercharged H2R engine used by the company’s ‘Ninja’ motorcycle.
According to Kawasaki Heavy Industries (the department of Kawasaki responsible for creating this aircraft) the two forward-facing rotors in combination with the fixed wing will give a significant amount of extra performance to the vehicle, allowing it to traverse larger distances at higher speeds. Although Kawasaki is not traditionally in the business of making unmanned aircraft, it has an impressive history both in making recreational sport motorcycles and high-performance aircraft for both civilian and military applications.
This newest aircraft, called the K-Racer IV, has already successfully completed test flights, and is likely built to compete with Yamaha unmanned helicopters that are built for agriculture applications. During the flight tests, the helicopter performed a vertical take-off, a flyby around the airfield, and a vertical landing. Notably, the K-Racer IV can be flown either remotely or autonomously, and both modes were tested during recent flights.
Although this aircraft may not directly lead to larger passenger autonomous aircraft, it shows that Kawasaki is investing a significant amount of R&D funds into autonomous flight tech. With Japan having shown great public interest in aerial mobility, and Kawasaki being one of the country’s leading providers of traditional helicopters, Kawasaki may eventually lean in to creating autonomous passenger aircraft when the technology becomes more common. The K-Racer IV could sere as a strong foundation for those future VTOL aircraft.
Why it’s important: As the aerial mobility industry advances, more and more large aviation industry players are investing in combinations of VTOL and fixed wing flight. The VTOL fixed wing combination, once totally unfamiliar, is now becoming a common marker for innovation amongst these companies. With Kawasaki in the mix, the coming age of VTOL aircraft inches closer to reality, and competition for aircraft manufacturing becomes a little more fierce.