Volocopter expands into utility drone business with fully-electric VoloDrone demonstrator. Volocopter, an active innovator in the aerial mobility industry, presented the demonstrator of its VoloDrone on October 30th near the company’s headquarters in Germany. This marks Volocopter’s expansion into the logistics, agriculture, infrastructure and public services industry. The VoloDrone is an unmanned, fully electric, heavy-lift utility drone capable of carrying a payload...
Volocopter expands into utility drone business with fully-electric VoloDrone demonstrator.
Volocopter, an active innovator in the aerial mobility industry, presented the demonstrator of its VoloDrone on October 30th near the company’s headquarters in Germany. This marks Volocopter’s expansion into the logistics, agriculture, infrastructure and public services industry. The VoloDrone is an unmanned, fully electric, heavy-lift utility drone capable of carrying a payload of up to 200 kg (440 lbs). With its adaptable payload system, Volocopter aims to reach a wide swath of market opportunities ranging from agriculture, logistics, and infrastructure to public services, all while offering time and cost advantages compared to existing solutions.
The VoloDrone’s propulsion system is visually similar to that of the iconic Volocopter 2X. The rotor area of the VoloDrone has a diameter of 9.2 m and sits at 2.3 m height, allowing for a maximum range of up to 40 km (25 miles). It can be remotely piloted or flown in automated mode on pre-set routes. The aircraft is also outfitted with a standardized rail attachment system commonly applied in aerospace and logistics in order to accommodate a wide variety of payloads. Built to be compatible with Euro-palette packages, it provides enough space for a sling, a sprayer or other customized equipment.
A team of specialists based at the special airfield in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich has developed the aircraft. “Since the very beginning, we have worked with strategic partners across different industries to develop a product that will provide significant value in their specific use cases. It is therefore designed as a universal air-lift vehicle, that can be adapted to different use cases by special-purpose implements. Listening to the market demands is key for us,” says Christophe Hommet, Chief Engineer of the VoloDrone. To learn more about Volocopter’s strategic ideology, Read Volocopter’s White Paper on Urban Air Mobility.
Sharing strong synergy with the existing Volocopter air taxi platform, the VoloDrone benefits from the accumulated technology competence and flight testing already performed on the Volocopter: its multicopter platform with 18 rotors and swappable lithium-ion batteries as well as the in-house flight control solutions provide a strong reliable basis for the VoloDrone.
“Our core business remains Urban Air Mobility and the transportation of passengers. However, the technological platform of the Volocopter can bring outstanding value to a variety of additional applications. With the VoloDrone, Christophe and his team are bringing the benefits of Volocopter technology to the logistics, agriculture, infrastructure, and public services space,” says Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. “It expands our leading position in sustainable, fully electric eVTOLs to a host of new applications.”
Why it’s important: The first flight of the VoloDrone demonstrator in October 2019 marks the beginning of intensive customer interaction in real-life applications, which provides the basis for the serial product. Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are seeing new opportunities to apply aerial mobility technology to the logistics industry, and as it leads to increased competition in the sector, could benefit and expedite the implementation of the technology for human transportation.
Source // Volocopter
Lift Aircraft has announced plans to begin trial flights at it headquarters in Austin, TX. Matt Chasen, a veteran of the startup world and a former Boeing engineer, says his company is planning to offer the first round of trial flights at its headquarters soon, reported GeekWire. Later, Lift Aircraft will complete a 25-city tour showcasing its ultralight aircraft, Hexa....
Lift Aircraft has announced plans to begin trial flights at it headquarters in Austin, TX.
Matt Chasen, a veteran of the startup world and a former Boeing engineer, says his company is planning to offer the first round of trial flights at its headquarters soon, reported GeekWire. Later, Lift Aircraft will complete a 25-city tour showcasing its ultralight aircraft, Hexa. The company gained public visibility with a visit from Jeff Bezos at Amazon’s MARS conference earlier this year.
“Securing great places to fly in each city is not super easy but we’re planning to go to Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego in the first few months of next year, and will likely time our tour through Seattle for summer,” Chasen said in an email. “There are still a lot of uncertainties as we’re getting into our first, low-rate production soon, and flight testing is always unpredictable — but we are on track to start our first customer trial flights late this year in Austin.”
The company says Hexa will be a 18-rotor, electric powered helicopter for “fun flights”. Unlike other eVTOL manufacturers which pitch a multi-passenger air taxi, Hexa will be a one-passenger vehicle for short flights over urban areas and tourist destinations. Lift says the FAA will classify Hexa as a powered ultralight aircraft.
Why its matters: Lift is showing the variety of possible business opportunities presented in the aerial mobility industry. While most conversations are centered on air taxi services and the like, Lift plans to offer a different kind of service and tap into the tourism and entertainment industries. While it remains to be seen the size or profitability of this business model, Lift has a strong brand presence with its recent appearances with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and various industry trade shows/conferences.
LIFT's Hexa is a short distance single-seater eVTOL designed to work much like shared scooter systems in urban areas do today. Users will be able to fly Hexa Aircraft between landing ports in urban areas, guided by instructions from a mobile app. Hexa will take off and land autonomously, making the flight experience seamless. LIFT plans on initially launching in 25 U.S citizens, and is already takin pre-sale reservations.
Stage of Development
Company Name: LIFT Aircraft
Headquarters: Austin, Texas
LIFT CEO: Matt Chasen
Product Name: Hexa
Type of Machine: Recreational/Urban transport eVTOL
Weight: 432 lbs
Capacity: Single Passenger
Altitude: Under 500 ft
Vertical take-off and landing: Hexa flys on by 18 independent electric motors and propellors.
Range: 10-15 minutes of flight time
Regulation: LIFT's is certified as a Powered Ultralight aircraft, meaning no pilots license is required to fly. LIFT CEO Matt Chasen has expressed his belief that making this smaller aircraft will put the Hexa in the air 'years before' other aircraft that transition to fixed-wing flight.
Funding: LIFT is currently taking pre-orders for flights in 25 U.S cities, each for around $200. It is also accepting inquiries for investment through its website.
Our Take on Hexa
The idea behind Hexa, according to CEO and Founder Matt Chasen, is to make personal eVTOL flight available to the public sooner rather than later. By recieving its certification as a Powered Ultralight from the FAA, LIFT has made this possible, and is on the track to launching flights in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle Fairly soon. However since the Hexa is smaller aircraft that for now is mainly aimed at recreation, it has a smaller opportunity for scale than the longer term fixed-wing transition air taxis such as the Bell Nexus. While other larger vehicles will be the 'Ubers' of the skies, Hexa will take the market for short-distance transport that shared electric scooters have in many major cities.
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Back to The Hangar
Lift Aircraft, based in Austin, TX, has unveiled a flying production-design of its Hexa aircraft concept. The electric vertical take off and landing eVTOL flying machine, shown below, features impressive simplicity and redundancy that will enable personal use by tourists and amateur enthusiasts. Designed for 8-15 minute flights in scenic and uncongested areas, the aircraft relies on 18 propellers to get...
Lift Aircraft, based in Austin, TX, has unveiled a flying production-design of its Hexa aircraft concept. The electric vertical take off and landing eVTOL flying machine, shown below, features impressive simplicity and redundancy that will enable personal use by tourists and amateur enthusiasts.
Designed for 8-15 minute flights in scenic and uncongested areas, the aircraft relies on 18 propellers to get its 432 lb carbon fiber airframe off the ground. Floats mounted underneath the seat allow the Hexa to land on water, unlocking a unique amphibious capability during operation. Safety measures, including an automatic ballistic parachute for emergencies and a semi-autonomous flight control system, make the personal flying machine especially attractive to the everyday user. All that is required of the pilot is interaction with a single 3-axis joystick and the seven-inch touchscreen interface.
Lift plans to certify the aircraft under the FAA’s ultralight category, meaning users will not be required to have a pilot’s license in order to fly it. This limit’s the aircraft to an altitude of a few hundred feet, which Lift thinks is plenty to serve its core purpose: thrilling recreational flight.
Lift is currently preparing for a Series A funding round while considering the location in which to roll out its first personal flying experience. One city under investigation is Seattle, where the aircraft can be enjoyed by tourists seeking to explore the beautiful water features characteristic of the area. Life CEO, Matt Chasen is excited about the speed at which his team of eight engineers has reached this level of commercial availability. Chasen, who has flown the aircraft himself, is confident “[Hexa] will be flying years before anyone else.”
Why it’s Important: Multi-seat eVTOL air taxis require complicated regulatory approval and advanced battery technology. Simple and easy single-pilot aircraft like Hexa don’t have to wait for these issues to be worked out, and may be the first commercially viable eVTOL flying machines to market.
The goal of Rensselaer’s latest research center is to pursue cutting-edge research in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft technologies. Earlier this month, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) held a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Uber Elevate Director of Engineering Mark Moore, as well as representatives from Terrafugia, Boeing, Aurora Flight Sciences, and Bell. While the opening of RPI MOVE...
The goal of Rensselaer’s latest research center is to pursue cutting-edge research in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft technologies.
Earlier this month, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) held a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Uber Elevate Director of Engineering Mark Moore, as well as representatives from Terrafugia, Boeing, Aurora Flight Sciences, and Bell.
While the opening of RPI MOVE is partly driven by interest in vertical lift technologies from the Department of Defense, the director of the new center Farhan Gandhi higlights the “tremendous buzz” around eVTOLs. Ghandi believes that the use of distributed electric propulsion, as well as autonomous operation could “completely change the mobility paradigm.”
MOVE has already acquired 21 Ph.D. students and is working on projects having to do with VTOL aeromechanics, multi-copters, advanced VTOL configurations, control and autonomy, flying qualities, diagnostics and structural health monitoring, computational fluid dynamics, experimental aerodynamics, nano-materials, and design optimization.
In short, RPI MOVE is designed to be an innovation hub producing students with unique technological knowledge for VTOLS and a wide range of innovative VTOL projects.
RPI has already started releasing educational material, including the “Dawn of eVTOL” speech by Mark Moore, the “The Electric VTOL Revolution” kickoff presentation from the Vertical Flight Society , and the “Electric VTOL: Current Status & Technical Challenges” panel featuring representatives from Boeing, Aurora Flight Sciences, Terrafugia, and Bell.
Why it’s important: The creation of the RPI MOVE center speaks to the future growth of the eVTOL industry. As more and more eVTOL developers begin to emerge, there will be more and more demand for graduates with expertise in Vertical Lift. Rensselaer has recognized this by forming MOVE.
Preparing for Liftoff Electric flight will transform our cities for the better, and it will happen sooner than you might think. by Andrew Beebe andJoe Blair There’s a revolution in the air. Literally, up in the sky. Winged devices and the necessary ecosystem around them are undergoing the biggest transformation since humanned flight began over 100 years ago. Technologists have promised “flying cars” for...
Preparing for Liftoff
Electric flight will transform our cities for the better, and it will happen sooner than you might think.
There’s a revolution in the air. Literally, up in the sky. Winged devices and the necessary ecosystem around them are undergoing the biggest transformation since humanned flight began over 100 years ago.
Technologists have promised “flying cars” for decades but the aircraft industry has failed to deliver. This time is different. Instead of cars with fold out wings, there is a new species of aircraft evolving — one that is small, agile, fast, all-electric, and emission-free. Most of them are eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, meaning they take off and land vertically like a helicopter and then glide horizontally on a fixed wing like an airplane.
These technical advancements are enabling a new vision for on-demand electric air taxis, allowing an entirely novel type of urban transportation modality that’s as affordable as renting a car or buying a train ticket.
In the near future, this industry could vastly change how and where we all live, work, and play. There are indeed threats and challenges to this vision, but the wheels are already in motion and the future is much closer than most people think.
I. How We Got Here
As with many technologies, massive military investment played a role in advancing cutting edge aerospace technologies. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) used in the military and pioneered by companies like AeroVironment were critical in perfecting drone tech. While the initial use cases were militaristic in nature, the downstream effects catalyzed a commercial drone industry with world positive use cases — from helping cities more safely inspect bridges to delivering blood in Rwanda.
Over the last decade, the explosive growth of mobile computing drove a radical reduction in weight while increasing the density of lithium ion batteries. In the beginning of electric flight, power wasn’t possible with lead acid ballasts sitting in a fuselage. But the advent of energy-dense, lightweight batteries brings with it hyper-efficient, “drive-by-wire” electric rotors in flight. Without the physical constraints of heavy, fossil-fuel driven drivetrains, rotors can be located strategically on the aircraft to maximize propulsion, minimize drag, and optimize the balance of the aircraft.
After affordable, lightweight energy storage, the second leg of the stool was sensors. Starting with accurate and enhanced GPS, the explosion of low-cost accelerometers, machine vision, and detection devices collectively allowed drones to manage themselves in ways never before possible.
Coupled with the right sensors, low-cost rotors, and lightweight composite structures, drones could finally manage themselves, or be remotely piloted. Anyone who has watched an NFL nighttime halftime show has seen extraordinary drone coordination feats which are largely driven by this type of software.
This trio of storage, sensors, and software came together to build today’s six billion-dollar commercial drone industry. Only ten years ago, it barely existed. Once drones are allowed to fly beyond visual line-of-sight, the market is expected to grow at an even faster pace.
II. Today’s Context
Urbanization and its Discontents…
The democratization of flight can’t come soon enough. Cities across the country, and even more so around the world, are choking on their own growth. Dense urban environments promised us efficiency and convenience, but in many cases have delivered congestion, inefficiency, pollution, and skyrocketing costs.
In order to address affordability, pollution, and congestion, the transportation paradigm will have to change. As living spaces and communities become more dynamic, commuting patterns will change, and cities will need greater flexibility. Public transportation infrastructure (like subways, commuter trains, and ever widening highways) can be inflexible and expensive. While mass transit will continue to be necessary, taking to the skies will help build a more adaptive and dynamic urban environment.
Clean, cost-effective air taxis will help support a new urban/ex-urban paradigm where commuting from many miles away is no longer a punitive prospect. People may no longer need to plan their housing needs around a specific rail terminal, and may no longer need to plan their weekend escapes in the face of walls of traffic.
There already major forces at work here, even with much of the activity flying under the radar.
- Lilium made a splash in 2016 with their Series A led by Nikolas Zenstrom of Atomico and the launch of their public flight video. Obvious Ventures subsequently invested in their $90M Series B in 2017, along with Tencent and others.
- Joby had maintained a low profile until 2018 when they announced a $100M financing led by Intel, including the likes of AME Cloud, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, and others.
- KittyHawk was completely hidden from public view until recently, and privately funded exclusively by Larry Page. They are working on two projects, a single-person recreational Flyer and a multi-passenger vehicle called Cora. They announced a partnership with the New Zealand government in 2018.
- Airbus’ Vahana project is a single-passenger vehicle called the Alpha One, developed by one of the leading teams from a large corporate player, and had their maiden flight in 2018. The amount of money Airbus has spent on this project is not public.
- Uber has made clear its intentions to play a significant role in the future of aerial ride sharing, hosting an annual conference called Uber Elevate, proposing guidelines for common standards, and partnering with traditional aircraft manufacturers who are also looking to get into the space. Uber aims to own the entire end-to-end experience for the consumer, whether traveling by ground, air, or sea.
Since the big funding announcements there have been several dozen other startups entering the urban mobility space, all with differing variations of vehicle design, flight mission, and business strategy.
There are other companies adding hybrid electric tech to traditional long distance commercial airliners, like Zunum (backed by Boeing and JetBlue) and Wright Electric (backed by EasyJet and others). Finally there is Boom, working on a supersonic jet (not electric, but interesting nonetheless).
Not since the time of Orville and Wilbur Wright has there been such a wealth of innovation in the aviation industry.
III. What’s Next?
Safety is paramount for all stakeholders in the air taxi industry, including regulators, service providers, aircraft manufacturers, suppliers, and customers. Everyone is on the same team when it comes to safety. The world is watching, and we all need to make safety the number one priority if we want this industry to develop. Likewise, one unfortunate crash could ground all aircraft and snuff out the industry before it even gets started.
To that end, the rollout should and will happen gradually.
During the certification process, aircraft will go through an extensive battery of tests to ensure the pinnacle of safety and reliability. Aircraft will be assessed in every possible scenario before any customer ever climbs aboard one. This is what regulators are best at, and already have the necessary processes and talent in place to make it happen.
Once certified, rides will be offered to the public in a limited way. Regulators will be evaluating safety of course, but will also ensure that ride providers are prompt, organized, and offer high quality service to their customers.
Once the ride service has proven its ability to operate at the highest level, other routes will be opened up. A higher volume of flights from existing vertiports will be allowed. New vertiports (specifically for eVTOL) will open and new routes will be established.
The regulators approve autonomous air travel. Volumes increase, prices plunge, and urban flight becomes fully democratized with larger vehicles and longer flight distances. People start to rethink where they live, work, and play. For example, people who work in San Francisco may opt to live in the Sierra foothills. Whereas the commute previously took three hours, now it’s a more manageable 30 minutes. We expect this to change real estate prices, reduce traffic in cities, and make the world more accessible to more people.
Step 1 — Leverage existing architecture
Existing helipads and airports are natural choices for initial air taxi routes, as they are already equipped with adequate physical space, air traffic control processes, and supporting personnel. Most people don’t realize that the helicopter transportation market is already $18 billion globally. For example, helicopter ride-sharing company Blade is operating flights between Manhattan, the Hamptons, and JFK Airport.
Step 2 — Build out new infrastructure (vertiports)
Once the aircraft is proven on existing infrastructure, the market will demand more routes, thus requiring the buildout of new infrastructure. The key requirements are access to charging, air clearances, and proximity to ground transportation. These vertiports will not require much investment, just the charging capability as previously discussed. In the early years, new vertiports will likely be built on city outskirts, thus allowing city-to-city hops while minimizing the need to fly over other infrastructure. Fortunately, for historic reasons, most cities are built near bodies of water, which provide ideal routes for air taxis. Real estate developers will soon realize how lucrative these infrastructure investments can be, and the private markets will play a meaningful role in opening up new routes.
Step 3 — Rooftop expansion
In the long term, vertiports will be built on top of existing buildings enabling hops from building-to-building within a city. This will happen but will likely be the last infrastructure use case. Multi-billion dollar companies will flourish long before this becomes a reality.
Air Traffic Management
Air traffic control systems work well for traditional air travel, but are ill-equipped to handle the air taxi paradigm. Today’s systems still rely on verbal communication, where air traffic controllers must connect directly with pilots to ensure deconfliction. In the early days, air taxis will rely on these systems as well, but as the volume of flights climbs, traditional air traffic control systems may soon become overwhelmed.
The drone industry has been working on a solution. Drones have a more immediate challenge as there is no pilot onboard to communicate with air traffic control. Thus, companies like Airmap have been working on UTM (Unmanned aircraft system Traffic Management). UTM software is rapidly becoming a critical requirement for any consumer or commercial drone, because it helps drone operators automatically request authorization for flights, checks air space restrictions or warnings, and ensures deconfliction with other aircraft.
As drones become more ubiquitous, air taxis may be able to piggyback on UTM thus allowing for an air traffic management system that automatically coordinates the operation of all types of aircraft in a safe and seamless manner.
A Note On Autonomy
In the short-to-medium term, air taxis will be piloted. This approach allows for standardized aircraft certification processes and air traffic control systems — and therefore faster commercial deployment.
However, in the long-term, the market will likely transition toward autonomous air taxis. As futuristic as it sounds, it is not a wildly challenging problem — and is a simpler matter to address compared to self-driving cars. First, there are fewer obstacles in the sky. Second, there is a whole other physical dimension to keep vehicles from hitting each other. And third, aircraft have been effectively “automated” for many years. Most commercial airliners have robust mid-flight “autopilot” functionality, requiring pilots only for outlier situations.
Of course, this new capability will require rigorous testing and a new certification protocol. However, we expect that autonomous air taxis will become commercially available sooner than expected.
Ford and GM don’t own highways, just as Airbus and Boeing don’t own airspace. Similarly, air taxi manufacturers and service providers must share the skies among each other and other types of aircraft. Routes should be open to any air taxi meeting regulator requirements. Dan Elwell, Acting Administrator at the FAA, reiterated the FAA’s goal of integrated airspace at the 2018 Uber Elevate conference.
In the conventional aircraft world, both public and private airports exist. Private airports can restrict landings except in the event of an emergency. The early years may require privately funded vertiports, but publicly accessible vertiports should be opened up quickly. Whether funded privately by savvy real estate investors or publicly by transportation authorities, in the future we will see a tremendous number of vertiports accessible by a wide range of certified air taxis.
Sharing and collaborating on protocols will ensure healthy competition and the fast growth of the industry. For example, if air taxi companies converged on a set of electric charging requirements then each vertiport would be robustly equipped to handle any existing and future aircraft. Similarly, convergence on air traffic management systems will ensure consistent awareness of where all other vehicles are and optimize traffic flow, thus providing better service for consumers. Regulators are already leading here and must continue assembling coalitions of the willing.
The air taxi industry will only be successful if the communities in which they operate are engaged early and if their needs are met. This means rides will be affordable for the vast majority of the community, not just the elite. This means vehicles will be quiet enough to not disrupt your conversation with a neighbor. This means flights will be spaced out and at the appropriate altitude so that your view isn’t marred by a ubiquitous swarm of aircraft. To this end, companies should co-design the service with communities and even facilitate public-private initiatives to kickstart the conversation.
By following these recommendations, the air taxi industry has a legitimate chance to thrive and realize its true world positive potential.
BLADE Urban Air Mobility recently announced that they will be extending their jet charter services to customers at operating cost to support those needing urgent on demand transportation from affected areas. From a BLADE press release: “Given the unprecedented level of uncertainty regarding commercial flight travel restrictions, mandatory health screenings for international commercial arrivals (with hours-long waits), and seemingly random...
BLADE Urban Air Mobility recently announced that they will be extending their jet charter services to customers at operating cost to support those needing urgent on demand transportation from affected areas.
From a BLADE press release: “Given the unprecedented level of uncertainty regarding commercial flight travel restrictions, mandatory health screenings for international commercial arrivals (with hours-long waits), and seemingly random decisions regarding quarantines, many of our fliers are eager to transport family, friends, and colleagues home via private air travel.”
BLADE furthered the statement by outlining that they have been coordinating with federal authorities, full-time state and local government advisors, and operator partners to help customers navigate the confusion regarding current, planned, and in-process restrictions and processes that remain critical to making informed judgments regarding private air travel at this time.
The key announcement: In an effort to best assist our community, BLADE is now providing charter availability for our entire accessible fleet of long-range jets at operating cost to anyone in need of transportation from an international location back to the United States.
Additionally, given the shortage of available aircraft, and in an effort to help as many travelers as possible, BLADE encouraged that these flights be shared, either through coordination by BLADE or by fliers themselves, assuming travelers had taken necessary precautions to ensure that they were not infected.
Why it’s important: BLADE’s reduction in cost for charters and on-demand transportation services has allowed customers access to international travel when they may not be able to access via any other means due to restrictions placed on commercial airlines. Regardless, those who are in greatest need of traveling for urgent situations, or attempting to return home to their families, still have the opportunity to do so. This announcement also falls in concert with the larger direction of the commercial airline industry being hit incredibly hard by the COVID-19 outbreaks, causing reductions in carrying capacity, crew leaves of absence, and extensive delays, cancellations, and rescheduling of airfares.
Chinese aerial mobility developer EHang has signed an agreement with the government of Seville, Spain, to initiate an Urban Air Mobility program that will build systems for passenger transport and autonomous airspace management in the city. This marks one of Europe’s first cities to begin planning for an aerial mobility future. EHang has built itself into one of the world’s...
Chinese aerial mobility developer EHang has signed an agreement with the government of Seville, Spain, to initiate an Urban Air Mobility program that will build systems for passenger transport and autonomous airspace management in the city. This marks one of Europe’s first cities to begin planning for an aerial mobility future.
EHang has built itself into one of the world’s top AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle) platform developers in the world. Along with the creation of an eVTOL aircraft resembling a large drone, EHang also has been developing intelligent systems for airspace management of its vehicles and smaller UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The mission of the company is to create a completely autonomous aerial network. EHang opened on the U.S Nasdaq early this year at a $662 million valuation.
The agreement with the city of Seville specifies that EHang will work with the Seville government to develop aerial passenger transportation and command and control platforms within the city. The government will also collaborate with EHang on applications for permission to conduct test flights, in accordance with Spanish and European legislation, and will coordinate with EHang in the planning of flight routes.
In addition, EHang will perform an aerial light show in Seville on September 20th to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage around the world, which began in Seville.
Seville Mayor Juan Espadas Cejas commented, “Establishing the partnership with EHang, one of the world’s leading UAM enterprises, is a great opportunity for Seville. Our city has a rich legacy in European aviation, which we believe can promote EHang’s AAV tests, operations, and permitting applications both in Spain and Europe. We look forward to EHang’s first flight in Seville and hope our cooperation will facilitate the commercialization of its UAM ecosystem in Europe.”
Why it’s important: As mentioned by EHang CEO Mr. Hu Huazhi, AAVs have excellent potential in older cities like Seville that have many small, narrow streets that are inaccessible by automobile. Wider streets are often very congested, and historic areas are often damaged by pollution from carbon emissions. According to the European Commission’s urban mobility report, congestion in the EU costs nearly EUR 100 billion every year, accounting for 1% of the EU’s annual GDP. If cities like Seville successfully adopt electric aerial mobility, the positive impact on Europe as a whole could be massive.
Netherlands-based flying car manufacturer, PAL-V has announced plans to set up a manufacturing plant in Gujarat, India, building off of its announcement to test the prototype in the area last week at the Economic Times Summit in Delhi. The company is in its final stages of certification in Europe as of February 2020. The announcement also comes with new Memorandums...
Netherlands-based flying car manufacturer, PAL-V has announced plans to set up a manufacturing plant in Gujarat, India, building off of its announcement to test the prototype in the area last week at the Economic Times Summit in Delhi.
The company is in its final stages of certification in Europe as of February 2020.
The announcement also comes with new Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with the Principal Secretary of State, MK Das. This MoU will greatly help the flying car manufacturer in receiving all the necessary regulatory approvals to set up a new production plant in Gujarat.
PAL-V chose Gujarat for its world-class infrastructure, relative ease of conducting business, and low cost basis for producing its flying car prototype at scale. The PAL-V Liberty has been under development for the past decade, will have the ability to transform from a car to a flight vehicle in less than 3 minutes, and can fly distances of over 500km.
The Liberty will be able to seat two people with 20kg of baggage.
Why it matters: This announcement follows recent news from PAL-V last week at the Economic Times Summit in New Delhi and signals a significant investment in India for the final production and testing of its vehicles. In addition, another agreement with Kuwait Airways for suggests that that PAL-V may expect its first customers to be residents of the East. If the company meets its 2021 goal of delivering final vehicles to customers, it would be among one of the first to do so and usher in the era of aerial mobility.
e.Sat represents the newest German aviation startup to enter the aerial mobility market. A new project company, e.Sat is working on the “Silent Air Taxi” project, an electric hybrid platform, stemming from the German Council of Science and Humanities (RWTH) Aachen University. The project currently employs 50 people for development and engineering of the electric fixed-wing aircraft. It was first...
e.Sat represents the newest German aviation startup to enter the aerial mobility market. A new project company, e.Sat is working on the “Silent Air Taxi” project, an electric hybrid platform, stemming from the German Council of Science and Humanities (RWTH) Aachen University. The project currently employs 50 people for development and engineering of the electric fixed-wing aircraft. It was first presented at the Paris Air Show, where all parties signed a letter of intent. Currently, the maiden flight is set for mid-late 2020.
In development for over 4 years, the e.SAT is designed to carry 5 occupants, 4 passengers and 1 pilot. The aircraft will have a cruising speed of 300 km/h (186 MPH) with a range of 1000 km range (621 miles). Its take-off distance is 400 meters or 1,312 feet. The powertrain components are to be provided by the Fraunhofer IPT (Institute for Production Technology), and the actual engine will be provided by MTU Aero Engines. It will also feature a connected box wing configuration, an interesting choice as few other aerial mobility companies have attempted a design with one. According to Lars Wagner, MTU Aero Engines COO, the Silent Air Taxi project has a high chance of becoming a reality.
The e.SAT’s main draw is focused on a vital area for eVTOL development: sound. The company states that their intention is to develop the e.SAT with 65 dBA takeoffs, and have the aircraft be completely “inaudible” at 100 meters (328 feet) away.
Dr. Günther Schuh, Managing Director and Dr. Schuh, professor of Production Systematics at the RWTH Aachen University are both the co-founders of the electric vehicle manufacturer Streetscooter and managing director of the electric vehicle manufacturer e.GO Mobile. Additionally, the Transport Ministry is securing 4 million euros for an extension of the project, with an additional 12.7 million euros earmarked for further development of the Aachen-Merzbrück airfield where the aircraft will be tested.
The company hopes to achieve its EASA CS-23 certification in 2024.
Why it’s important: With established companies and early startups already deep into their process of developing their version of aerial mobility, e.SAT looks to make up for their later start with an emphasis on low noise disturbances from their aircraft. Undoubtedly an important factor in getting a quick certification for their design, we are excited to see which direction the e.SAT takes over the course of the next few decades.
Source // electrek
With the newest smart electric motors from Safran, the electric Voltaero Cassio has taken flight. The Voltaero Cassio, developed by former Airbus CTO Jean Botti, is a hybrid-electric, high-range airplane, built to bring cleaner energy to regional commercial flights, private aircraft ownership, and more. The hybrid system utilized by Voltaero gives the Cassio the utmost safety, the lowest noise emissions, and...
With the newest smart electric motors from Safran, the electric Voltaero Cassio has taken flight.
The Voltaero Cassio, developed by former Airbus CTO Jean Botti, is a hybrid-electric, high-range airplane, built to bring cleaner energy to regional commercial flights, private aircraft ownership, and more. The hybrid system utilized by Voltaero gives the Cassio the utmost safety, the lowest noise emissions, and highest fuel efficiency among any existing aircraft of its class. The new company formed by Botti aspires to eventually create 150 five-to-nine passenger aircraft each year.
Voltaero entered the latest testing phase of the Cassio last July, when it first partnered with Safran to begin development of the prototype. The company has been working on the Cassio since its founding in 2018, and deliveries of production aircraft are expected to begin as early as 2021.
The latest set of testing marks an important milestone for Voltaero, as it proves the viability of the hybrid-electric powertrain. Said Voltaero founder and CEO Jean Botti: “I am very pleased with the testing as we accumulate time aloft and open up the aircraft’s flight envelope. The current test phase is with the powertrain for our six-seat Cassio version, to be followed by validation of the final aerodynamic and powertrain configurations on both the four- and nine-seat Cassio versions.”
Said Technical Director Didier Esteyne, who piloted the test aircraft, “Flying on the power of Safran’s ENGINeUSTM motors is truly remarkable, with no vibration and extremely low noise levels. It confirms that our Cassio aircraft will bring an entirely new experience to aviation.”
Why it’s Important: With this latest breakthrough for Voltaero, an enormous step has been taken forward for the era of sustained electric flight. While eVTOLs do not generally use hybrid systems as does the Voltaero Cassio, development of hybrid-electric airplanes that can travel for extended periods of time contribute greatly to the potential for all electric aircraft. Notably, Safran is also developing electric motors specifically built for eVTOL applications, extending its expertise in electric propulsion for aviation.
- Former Airbus CTO Jean Botti is Developing A New Electric Airplane
- Safran Unveils Electric Motor Built for VTOL Aircraft
- Harbour Air Completes First All-Electric Powered Flight
Skyports, the urban air mobility infrastructure provider and drone delivery operator, announced an extension to its Series A funding to now total £6 million ($8 million) with investment from Irelandia Aviation. Skyports aims to build and operate critical infrastructure for urban air mobility and managing end to end drone deliveries. The company is working with the leading electric vertical take-off and landing...
Skyports, the urban air mobility infrastructure provider and drone delivery operator, announced an extension to its Series A funding to now total £6 million ($8 million) with investment from Irelandia Aviation.
Skyports aims to build and operate critical infrastructure for urban air mobility and managing end to end drone deliveries. The company is working with the leading electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger and cargo vehicle manufacturers around the world to secure, design, build, own and operate vertiports enabling safe and efficient flight operations within urban and suburban environments. Ultimately, its vision includes end-to-end cargo drone deliveries within the medical, e-commerce and logistics sectors overcoming inefficiencies associated with traditional transportation methods.
Last December, Skyports announced that they’ve raised £5.35 million in Series A funding. The funding round was jointly led by Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures (DBDV) and Groupe ADP. Levitate Capital also participated in this funding round following their seed investment in the company in January 2018. Just this week, Irelandia Aviation announced that it joins existing Series A investors Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures, Groupe ADP and Levitate Capital in the investment round.
Skyports intends to use the funds to continue its ambitious programme of site acquisition for passenger and cargo vertiports in cities around the world, including Singapore and Los Angeles. The company will also expand its team to enable the full commercialisation of its urban and rural drone delivery services.
Founder and managing partner of Irelandia Aviation, Declan Ryan, will take a seat on the Skyports board.
Duncan Walker, Chief Executive of Skyports, said: “Irelandia have been pioneers in the aviation industry for many years. Irelandia and the Ryan family have founded five airlines including Ryanair in Europe, Tiger Airways in Asia, Allegiant in the USA and Viva Air in Latin America where Declan is Executive Chairman. It is a privilege to welcome Declan to our board and testament to our ambition that he will be taking this position. Their investment further strengthens our financial position. Skyports investors have a combined balance sheet in excess of €80 billion (£70 billion) putting us in a unique position to build scale in this emerging industry.”
Declan Ryan, Managing Partner of Irelandia Aviation, said: “We are delighted to partner with the team at Skyports who have become leaders in the development of the infrastructure required to enable the UAM industry. We at Irelandia look forward to working with Skyports, aviation regulators, manufacturers and operators to expand in new markets and make UAM and drone services a reality globally. We look forward to furthering Irelandia’s demonstrated track record of democratizing air travel around the world.”
Why it’s important: The investment from Irelandia Aviation, the world’s premier low cost carrier (LCC) developer, is an early indication that aerial mobility is intended to be for the common commuter. Increased accessibility hinges on reasonably low price points for UAM transportation options, so the experience that Irelandia brings will have great value in striving toward this ultimate goal.
Source // Skyports
The Aerial Mobility industry is providing Next-gen technology to combat next-gen problems The role of technology and disruptive mobility solutions had a cemented station in the technology sphere across the globe, and a defined and measurable rate of progress, for the most part. Two months ago, that all changed with the rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak from China, straining medical personnel,...
The Aerial Mobility industry is providing Next-gen technology to combat next-gen problems
The role of technology and disruptive mobility solutions had a cemented station in the technology sphere across the globe, and a defined and measurable rate of progress, for the most part. Two months ago, that all changed with the rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak from China, straining medical personnel, first responders, local, nation, and global political organizations, and the economy worldwide.
Many of the advantages of the future generation of aerial mobility technology relate primarily to the unrealized functionalities, and possibility, that unmanned, on-demand aerial mobility transportation tech provides to the world in unique situations with use cases that aren’t currently defined. Here are a few ways that COVID-19 is accelerating the development and deployment of aerial mobility technology worldwide.
Surveillance Drones Enforcing Quarantines
Billion dollar industries don’t normally emerge overnight, but in Shenzhen, China, home to over 70% of the world’s civilian drones, surveillance technology that was previously used for surveying and real estate applications has been repurposed to support the enforcement of curfews. Forbes and the South China Morning Post overviewed the details of how some surveillance drones are helping to enforce the curfews that are estimated to affect some 50 million residents. Shenzhen Smart Drone UAV’s were the primary use case for reconfigured platforms.
Chairman of Shenzhen MicroMultiCopter Aero Technology, Lu Zhihui, has performed the same reconfiguration of surveying and mapping drones that can be geared with loudspeakers, thermal sensors, 40-times zoom lenses and flood lights to help enforce quarantines, if necessary.
According to SCMP, MicroMultiCopter has 100 drones to local authorities in 11 Chinese cities since the outbreak led to citywide quarantines in late January. The company is also working with government agencies that include the police, transport department and local marketing divisions that promote and advertise the restrictions. Lu stated that each drone can patrol a 10 square kilometer urban area in an hour, saving the work of more than 100 police officers in dozens of patrol cars.
Lu also added that MicroMultiCopter plans to more than double its production to 5,000 units this year, from last year’s 2,000. Lu did not comment on the list price of the technology.
Corollaries in Disaster Relief
Across continents, the benefits of using drones is clear: the European Emergency Number Association, in collaboration with drone maker DJI and Research Firm Black Channel, determined that drones find those needing rescue significantly faster than ground-based Search and Rescue (SAR) methods. This corollary doesn’t apply directly to COVID-19 response, but it does underscore the specific advantages that drones have over other aircraft and ground based system in natural disaster relief scenarios.
Rapid Transport of Medical Goods
Aerodeli, an Antwork branch company, gained the first commercial drone delivery license from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in October of 2019. Since February 6th, 2020, the company has been utilizing their technology for safe transport of medical sample technology.
GPS World Magazine categorized Aerodeli’s work as “RA3 and tr7s drones and unmanned RH1 station [that] are ensuring that medical samples and quarantine materials can travel with minimal risk between Xinchang County People’s Hospital and Xinchang County’s disease control center. The automatic, unmanned air delivery system significantly reduces contact between samples and personnel, as well as improves delivery speed.”
Both the rate of transport of these samples, and the safety with which the samples are being moved both contribute to the value proposition of aerial mobility technology as a key enabler for addressing the complicated societal problems of the future. Drones require limited human interaction, save sample loading and unloading, and the rate of transport has been reported as up to 50% faster for current intracity trips (according to the flight statistics of these drones operation in Xinchang). This time savings is an exciting figure as the speed of transport will continue to increase in speed as the industry continues to mature due to advancements in flight path sequencing and loading/unloading flows.
Beyond COVID-19 Transport
Many other examples of medical goods transport via air taxi exist and are being tested at this time – including Beta Technologies’ Ava prototype, designed in conjunction with United Therapeutics to transport human organs in time critical, emergency scenarios. Tier 1 Engineering, another startup funded by United Therapeutics, utilizes energy efficient, battery powered helicopters to transport human organs in critical scenarios, and serves as a hybrid for large scale aerial mobility operations for human organ transplants until more custom solutions are certified by aviation regulatory authorities.
Delivery Drones for food and consumables delivery
Quarantine enforcement and medical good transport some of the primary applications of drone aerial mobility and drone technology to fighting coronavirus, but some additional, indirect benefits also provide the necessary support mechanisms that facilitate societal upkeep during heightened sensitivity periods to disease, infection, or natural disaster.
An often overlooked analogue is the role that drones and future mobility technology provided during the Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey – drones allowed for rapid aerial surveying, search and rescue, and medical goods supply and transport, on a limited basis. These events occurred over 10 years ago – and the maturation of mobility technology in those past 10 years have allowed for the heightened level of societal benefit from the tech itself.
On a larger scale, companies such as DHL and UPS have piloted their own drone delivery services. These services will allow at scale the free flowing movement that is highly desired of large fulfillment centers and e-commerce stores. While challenging the describe in this manner, the outbreak of COVID-19 is a fortunate event and forcing function for the progress of larger scale drone deliveries, as the benefits of a large network that could transport food, consumables, and emergency/disaster relief equipment in a scenario such as a hurricane, earthquake, or virus outbreak have been made blatantly clear.
An Aside on Enabling Technologies
While many of the technologies that are affecting and responding to the COVID-19 outbreak perform direct functions, ancillary and supporting technologies, such as low-altitude airspace management, infrastructure, battery technology, AI flight controllers, and advanced aerospace grade composite materials all contribute to the overall success of these disruptive mobility applications.
Why it’s important: While mass-scale commercial aerial mobility technology will not be viable for at least another 10 years, the societal benefits and value proposition to the everyday consumer, even if that consumer isn’t riding in an air taxi, are evident amplified due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As early as 2009, during Hurricane Katrina, drones and disruptive mobility technology has been utilized to aid in disaster relief, search and rescue, medical transport, and surveillance operations.
Oftentimes, massive global events, such as wars, natural disasters, or political turmoil provide, ironically, some of the greatest progress in technological advancements that have ever been accomplished: The Cold War and the Moon Landing, WWII and the jet engine, the industrial revolution, and so on. While the current global outlook is negative, the situation that has emerged is one ripe for taking advantage of the greatest opportunity afforded to anyone: the right to do better and do what was not possible, before it was said it could be done.
With content from Forbes, South China Morning Post, GPS World Magazine, CNN, and CNBC.
PAL-V is a Dutch company that’s been developing a personal drivable aircraft for over ten years since its founding in 2008. Since then, PAL-V has been working hard to advance its technology and move forward toward both land and air certification. The PAL-V Liberty can take off within 330m, fly at speeds over 180kph, and can land vertically. The company expects...
PAL-V is a Dutch company that’s been developing a personal drivable aircraft for over ten years since its founding in 2008. Since then, PAL-V has been working hard to advance its technology and move forward toward both land and air certification. The PAL-V Liberty can take off within 330m, fly at speeds over 180kph, and can land vertically. The company expects to deliver its first aircraft to the hands of customers by December 2021.
Accroding to PAL-V Co-Chairman Drs Janpieter Koning, company representatives recently met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonstrate its technology. “We might start testing in India very soon” said Koning at the Economic Times Global Business Summit in New Delhi. The Economic Times Summit this year covered many topics, including the the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the impact of artificial intelligence on businesses and employment generation, and corporate preparedness to face disruptive changes.
PAL-V hopes begin production in 2021, and according to many sources, is reaching the final stages of the certification process in Europe. The company also recently signed a Memorium of Understanding with Kuwait Airways, which will help provide aviation maintenance service for PAL-V’s customers.
Why it’s important: PAL-V’s Liberty is significant as it’s one of the only personal road-capable aircraft that will soon be available for sale. While other companies such as Terrafugia have pivoted directions, and others are selling private aircraft with a more VTOL-style for a higher price-point, PAL-V has stayed the course in making a personal aircraft that can also serve the daily commute. This may make it one of the first in the industry to begin unit sales to private customers.
Sources // The Economic Times
The Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge, initiated by the FAA and NASA, is designed to provide a ‘proving ground’ for new types of urban aircraft, allowing both government regulators and the new aircraft developers to begin setting the standards for commercial certification. This week, NASA announced seventeen of the companies it will be working with in the Grand Challenge. The...
The Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge, initiated by the FAA and NASA, is designed to provide a ‘proving ground’ for new types of urban aircraft, allowing both government regulators and the new aircraft developers to begin setting the standards for commercial certification. This week, NASA announced seventeen of the companies it will be working with in the Grand Challenge.
The main event of the Grand Challenge will take place in 2022, and will be a “full field demonstration in an urban environment that tests the readiness of companies’ vehicles and airspace operators’ systems to operate during a full range of passenger transport and cargo delivery scenarios.” According to NASA, the timeline set for the Grand Challenge series was dictated by predictions from participants on their aircrafts’ readiness. Traffic management systems, weather resilience, safety, and other systems for communications and navigation will all be tested and evaluated.
The other eleven industry partners with NASA focus on providing solutions and data for UAM air traffic management services, which will be a key part of the aerial mobility ecosystem. During the Grand Challenge, these companies will test their airspace management services in a series of NASA-designed airspace simulations. The list of companies includes:
- ANRA Technologies
- Ellis & Associates
- Metron Aviation
- OneSky Systems
- Uber Technologies
- The University of North Texas
Why it’s Important: NASA’s Grand Challenge is not only designed to test new aircraft, but to help NASA and the FAA set certification requirements for vehicles going into commercial operation within the next ten years. Companies that participate in the Grand Challenge are likely to have a head start on launching operation of their aircraft in commercial services.
NASA Completes First Steps in Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge
New Zeva Zero Prototype Images Revealed
Sources // eVTOL.com