Astro Aerospace has been accepted to participate in the NASA Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge. Astro Aerospace is most known for their development of the Elroy, an autonomous 2-person eVTOL (electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) passenger drone. The Elroy is designed with densely populated areas in mind, and is considered environmentally friendly with zero emissions and low noise. After successfully...
Astro Aerospace has been accepted to participate in the NASA Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge.
Astro Aerospace is most known for their development of the Elroy, an autonomous 2-person eVTOL (electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) passenger drone. The Elroy is designed with densely populated areas in mind, and is considered environmentally friendly with zero emissions and low noise. After successfully completing flight trials with the Elroy in late 2018, Astro Aerospace is ready to take on the NASA UAM Grand Challenge.
The Grand Challenge itself will be a series of tests, of which the first (GC-1) will begin in 2020. According to NASA’s own website, the first challenge that Astro Aerospace and others in the UAM community accepted will be to “promote public confidence in UAM safety and facilitate community-wide learning while capturing the public’s imagination.”
Why it’s important: Astro Aerospace’s entry into the NASA UAM Grand Challenge, along with those of all other participants, is just one step in NASA’s goal “to ‘raise the water level’ for the entire UAM community”. The Grand Challenge itself is an important channel to raise awareness and support for developing a widespread UAM ecosystem and market. Astro Aerospace’s and others’ designs in the Grand Challenge will help provide the innovation and competition necessary to create a stir in the UAM industry.
Sources // Globe Newswire, NASA, Astro Aerospace
San Luis Obispo, CA – based Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero for short) is partnering with NASA to create an all-electric X-57 “Maxwell” technology demonstrator aircraft. The Central Coast engineering firm specializes in “on-demand engineering” and ultimately plans to retrofit a Tecnam P2006T general aviation aircraft to demonstrate their technological advances in electric propulsion. The Tecnam P2006T is a popular light...
San Luis Obispo, CA – based Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero for short) is partnering with NASA to create an all-electric X-57 “Maxwell” technology demonstrator aircraft. The Central Coast engineering firm specializes in “on-demand engineering” and ultimately plans to retrofit a Tecnam P2006T general aviation aircraft to demonstrate their technological advances in electric propulsion.
The Tecnam P2006T is a popular light twin-engine aircraft, used commonly for multi-engine flight training. ESAero’s planned timeline for incorporating design advances to the X-57 began with receiving the aircraft in 2017, followed by Mod II Flight Testing at NASA’s Armstrong Research Center during 2018. The team plans on demonstrating that their concept will save five times the energy of a comparable aircraft during cruise profile. The fuselage contains 800 lbs of batteries to power the two main electric motors mounted on the wings for cruise flight. To facilitate vertical takeoff and landing, the aircraft is outfitted with an additional 12 electric motors dispersed across the wings.
From the company’s press release: “This tooling fuselage significantly reduces overall project duration by giving engineers at ESAero and Xperimental, LLC the opportunity to perform critical experimental wing integration tasks while NASA engineers flight test the Mod II configuration at the same time,” said Tom Rigney, NASA X-57 Project Manager. “One of our key goals is to overcome the many challenges associated with integrating these new all-electric technologies and to flight test them as soon as possible. This fuselage helps us to achieve this essential goal.” said Rigney. “We want to quickly provide lessons learned to the aviation industry to help them to develop and safely fly new all-electric and hybrid-electric aircraft that have so many potential benefits.”
Why it’s important: Empirical Systems Aerospace is applying a plug-and-play approach to the electrification of aviation by combining a proven airframe with electric propulsors. The company is adopting a dispersed propulsion approach, similar to other firms such as Verdego Aero, to maximize their efficiency gains during flight. ESAero’s contract with NASA has most likely also caught the eye of Uber, as the ride-sharing company is engaged in an ongoing developmental relationship with NASA as well.
NASA’s Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge is part of a growing movement within the aviation community to develop a future urban air transport system. Here’s one artist’s rendition of how a future urban airspace might look. NASA is assessing responses to an initial Request for Information (RFI) as the first step in kicking off its Grand Challenge. Responses were due...
NASA’s Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge is part of a growing movement within the aviation community to develop a future urban air transport system. Here’s one artist’s rendition of how a future urban airspace might look.
NASA is assessing responses to an initial Request for Information (RFI) as the first step in kicking off its Grand Challenge. Responses were due November 16, 2018 and served to get a better idea of what organizations are interested in participating. Participants might include air vehicle developers, air traffic management system developers, the FAA, and others. Certain consulting firms, like Booz Allen Hamilton, have already started working through select scenarios.
The RFI document, released by NASA one month earlier, stated “each participant will each be challenged to complete a series of common safety and integration scenarios”. The actual scenarios will be released after NASA finishes assessing potential participants.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) has expressed interest in getting involved with the Grand Challenges. A briefing published by the AOPA declared Senior Director of Airspace, Air Traffic, and Aviation Security Rune Duke wrote to NASA, reminding them that for the Grand Challenges program, “collaboration with other airspace stakeholders will be key to success.” AOPA has repeatedly shown interest in tackling metropolitan air transport challenges. They recently published this video from the National Business Aviation conference in Orlando, Oct 2018.
Why it’s Important:
The Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Grand Challenge is a multi-phase program that will, over the course of several years, identify and address the key challenges associated with accessible air transport systems in metropolitan areas. The first phase, named GC-1, will kick off the program by promoting UAM and building the public’s confidence in its safety. NASA plans to sponsor community learning and a possible flight demonstration as part of this mission.
NASA and Booz’s Executive Brief in Detail NASA and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton released a joint study on November 12 that outlined future projections of the urban aviation industry. The original executive briefing was presented on October 5th to NASA’s Aeronautics Research Directorate. Before we go into the details of the study, here are some of the key takeaways:...
NASA and Booz’s Executive Brief in Detail
NASA and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton released a joint study on November 12 that outlined future projections of the urban aviation industry. The original executive briefing was presented on October 5th to NASA’s Aeronautics Research Directorate. Before we go into the details of the study, here are some of the key takeaways:
- Airport Shuttle and Air Taxi markets have a total addressable market of over $500 Billion
- Air Ambulance services are not practical due to technology constraints – but hybrid aircraft may provide feasible alternatives
- Legal, regulatory, weather, public perception, and infrastructure hurdles exist
- 0.5% of the TAM, or $2.5 Billion, could be captured in the near term
- Constraints may be eased by government partnerships, industry collaboration, industry commitment, and existing legal and regulatory enablers
That’s the Summary. Here are the details.
A Strategic Advisory Group, or SAG, was assembled from prominent figures in the UAM, transportation, government regulations, infrastructures, public policy, and insurance disciplines – the SAG serves as an invaluable resource that enabled the information and advice of experts in their respective disciplines to offer their work and research toward answering some of the most pressing issues in the path towards wide spread UAM application. The study analyzed the following key components, each of which will be detailed below:
- Market Selection
- Legal and Regulatory
- Societal Barriers
- Weather Analysis
- Market Analysis
The study focused on a consortium of 10 cities across the United States to represent the larger industry.
Of potential interest in the selection of these 10 cities (and one city that has not been considered as heavily in the past) was that of Denver. Other cities that were selected, such as Los Angeles and Miami, have already been under consideration by real estate development companies and technology firm UAM development plans. However, the selection of Denver in this study is important – Denver has the potential for the lowest portion of air taxi shuttle trips within the FAA’s National Airspace System (NAS), which balances the perspective of a mostly urban-dominated, completely NAS-immersed UAM operating environment.
Legal and Regulatory
The largest legal and regulatory challenges that have the potential to slow urban aviation are regulations that already exist. In general, the framework for certifying aircraft already exists, but there are numerous legal barriers and gaps in the path to certification for some aircraft that may be classified as rotorcraft/mixed propulsion. Similarly, determining which regulations apply to what component(s) of air taxis is another challenge that has not yet been answered. Finally, system redundancy and failure management are critical safety considerations that will not be amended whatsoever for the sake of introducing a new type of aircraft such as an air taxi.
Fortunately, there are answers on the horizon to these challenges; for instance, ballistic parachute recovery systems are being developed for UAM systems. Additionally, the summary also cited that voluntary self-regulation (or even proposal of standards) may help to advance the regulatory process faster than relying solely on federal and state governments.
The largest concerns from the audience surveyed in this study (both younger persons aged 18-29 and older persons aged over 50) focused on credibility of pilots and the manufacturers of the aircraft. In general, those pilots/companies who were older attained a higher level of perceived experience, but gender and racial bias also played a role in affecting a passenger’s comfort with boarding a given flight. Passengers preferred intra-city hops instead of inter-city trips, and surprisingly, accepted a “hybrid flight deck” configuration where one pilot was onboard and the other “pilot” was automated.
Interestingly, the study also analyzed the position of weather in effecting UAM operations, and how in some locales the weather has enough of an adverse effect on air taxi services that their application could be placed in jeopardy. In general, cities in the Western United States had favorably weather, with the exception of impacts due to potential low visibility, high temperatures, and strong surface winds during summer thunderstorms. Cities like San Francisco suffer during the summer mornings when low-lying fog banks generate IFR conditions.
In the Eastern United States, storms and low visibility are the primary limiting factors, especially during summer afternoons. In areas such as Texas, low level wind shear, high temperatures, and storms have large impact potential to UAM operations, storms in the summer, and low visibility in the winter. While the summary did not expound further, expect more details in the full report – and also an overview of just how much the TAM may be reduced by seasonal weather shifts.
A Monte Carlo analysis was performed under a range of constraints to determine max usabilities – constraints involving customer’s willingness to pay, infrastructure limited, time of day limited, weather limited, and unconstrained scenarios. After performing these analyses, it was determined that only ~0.5% of unconstrained trips were captured after all other constraints were applied. This figure translates the $500 Billion as mentioned originally to the $2.5 Billion TAM. While the UAM market itself provides a lucrative magnitude of TAM, it is not without competitors – such as autonomous cars.
Additionally, analyses were conducted to determine the cost of air ambulance transports. After 10,000 iterations of this analysis, the estimated cost for an average trip was $9,000 for an eVTOL, and $9,800 for a hybrid – compared to $10,000 for that of a conventional helicopter transport. While there is a potential cost savings and practical benefit to eVTOLS as air ambulances (potential lives saved) the operational proficiency for eVTOLs will require time to establish – time that helicopters have had to demonstrate their applicability in situations that require extreme consistency. Another important consideration is the return time for an eVTOL, which is much higher than helicopters. While helicopters can be fueled with Jet-A in a matter of minutes, the charging technology for eVTOL’s is still not completely matured.
The best case scenario for air shuttle and air ambulance services includes a TAM of $500 Billion. In the near term, 5-seat eVTOL’s will cost ~$6.25 per passenger mile to operate. The high cost of infrastructure (and the current availability of infrastructure) are both large hurdles to overcome. Legal and regulatory analysis found that the air taxi, air ambulance, and air shuttle markets all face similar barriers. Additionally, psychological analysis and market surveys have proven that the general public is much more likely to board a piloted aircraft than an autonomous one. Finally, weather is a larger influencer in the applicability of air shuttle services than the industry has previously considered.
Why it’s Important: The joint Executive Summary between NASA and Booz Allen Hamilton has underscored many of the points made by numerous other consulting studies – but it also includes new considerations that will be important for the future development of the UAM industry, including the effects of return time for air ambulance operations and the effects of weather on all three markets. Stay tuned for the release of the full study and increased details on each of the topics addressed in the executive summary. The study emphasizes that a market of $2.5 billion may be reached in the short term (even after all the constraints are applied to market modeling) which is a large enough magnitude to continue to sustain the level of interest and dedication toward making this industry commercially operational in about five years.
After its recent Urban Air Mobility Industry Day November 1st-2nd, NASA has announced its partnership with NextNav, a three dimensional mapping software.Unlike most traditional location services, maps by NextNav offer vertical accuracy as well as traditional GPS positioning. NASA plans to utilize NextNav’s Metropolitan Beacon System (MBS) as part of its testing efforts at its research center in Langley Virginia....
After its recent Urban Air Mobility Industry Day November 1st-2nd, NASA has announced its partnership with NextNav, a three dimensional mapping software.Unlike most traditional location services, maps by NextNav offer vertical accuracy as well as traditional GPS positioning. NASA plans to utilize NextNav’s Metropolitan Beacon System (MBS) as part of its testing efforts at its research center in Langley Virginia.
NASA’s research center in Langley is named CERTAIN–City Environment for Range Testing of Autonomous Integrated Navigation. This space is designed to test all varieties of vertical lift technologies ranging from delivery drones to passenger air taxis.
NextNav’s Metropolitan Beacon System also makes itself unique by offering vehicle tracking in areas where GPS signal may not be available. The software itself is built around safely and reliably managing urban air mobility operations. The 3D geolocation location service also offers unique visualization of airspaces.
Rather than through satellites as with GPS, the NextNav Metropolitan Beacon System works through a series of transmitting beacons strategically positioned around urban areas to give a level of accuracy and reliability that GPS cannot provide:
While NextNav provides technology for geolocation, other companies like AirMap aim to provide air space management software for future urban air mobility infrastructure. AirMap, is a Santa Monica based startup which has raised $26 million in Series B funding and has been selected as the Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) provider for the U.S’s first drone corridor. The company has been providing flight planning services for recreational and commercial drone operators since its founding in 2014.
Why it’s important: As NASA further builds its repertoire of technologies, urban air mobility services become closer and closer to reality. Although the FAA provides final certification for aircraft, NASA has been a driving force behind developing safety standards for these technologies. While CERTAIN may only run tests on UAV vehicles, testing on passenger VTOLs is not far behind.
On Nov 1-2nd in Seattle, NASA held an Industry Day to prepare over 400 stakeholders for its upcoming Urban Air Mobility ‘Grand Challenges’. With this Industry Day, NASA hopes to connect itself with the wider industry, and to prepare all stakeholders for the first Grand Challenge, which will take place in 2020. The Grand Challenges are partly aimed at inspiring...
On Nov 1-2nd in Seattle, NASA held an Industry Day to prepare over 400 stakeholders for its upcoming Urban Air Mobility ‘Grand Challenges’.
The Grand Challenges are partly aimed at inspiring the public, but will also put aircraft designs to the test in a wide variety of flight test scenarios including bulked landings, certain weather conditions, emergency landing situations, lost communications links, and normal operational flight.
Once vehicles have been approved for the challenge, NASA hopes that the event will lead for a regulatory framework for eventual certification. This both drives the industry forward, and means that any vehicle manufacturer who wants eventual certification should be at the 2020 Grand Challenge.
Manufacturer/Designers still have until November 16th to submit the NASA Grand Challenge Request for Information (RFI) if they wish to participate in Grand Challenge 1.
Guests at the November Industry Day also included companies developing key onboard systems, such as electric propulsion, detect and avoid or command and control; and providers of air traffic management systems for UAM aircraft operating over urban areas. NASA did not directly speak to how the Grand Challenge series compares to efforts like Uber Elevate, but NASA will be at the heart of certification and regulation issues.
In collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton Consulting, NASA believes that by 2030, there will be as many as 500 million flights a year for package delivery services and 750 million flights a year for air metro services.
Why it’s important: With many efforts to push the UAM industry forward, it’s can be hard to understand why having such a wide range of them is important. Right now, the two biggest industry-gathering efforts are from Uber Elevate and NASA. It’s important to note that these two organizations serve different purposes: Uber most likely seeks like to streamline the business execution of VTOLs for the public, while NASA most likely seeks more to provide a baseline for safety and push for certification. Ultimately, it’s important for anyone wishing to be in the industry to fully understand both sides.
NASA has made its stance in the new flying car industry clear by recognizing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) as the next step in aviation innovation. In 2020, NASA will commence the first of it’s series of urban air mobility ‘Grand Challenges‘. These challenges will focus on allowing companies with new flight technologies to successfully demonstrate full system safety. Part of...
NASA has made its stance in the new flying car industry clear by recognizing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) as the next step in aviation innovation.
In 2020, NASA will commence the first of it’s series of urban air mobility ‘Grand Challenges‘. These challenges will focus on allowing companies with new flight technologies to successfully demonstrate full system safety. Part of the goal of this effort is to begin the process of public confidence and acceptance.
On November 1-2, NASA will host an ‘Industry Day‘ for urban air mobility. Here, it plans to gather all the players in the coming eco-system to outline and prepare for the 2020 Grand Challenge. According to NASA, attendees will be companies that are “highly motivated to participate and work with us to achieve a safe, commercial operating capability.”
“The convergence of technologies, and new business models enabled by the digital revolution, is making it possible to explore this new way for people and cargo to move within our cities,” – Jaiwon Shin, NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Research.
Another goal for the Grand Challenge is helping vehicles to achieve airworthiness certification. In collaboration with the FAA, vehicles will be put through performance tests both for normal flight and for emergency situations such as the loss of the motor. The first Grand Challenge will evaluate ground handling, taxi and takeoff, cruising capabilities and flight path changes, landing and turnaround in a variety of conditions, energy storage and battery capacity, and Management of critical systems failures.
“Now, our goals are to help develop and enable as much as possible what we like to think of as an entire ecosystem when it comes to Urban Air Mobility,” – Davis Hackenberg, UAM Engineer at NASA.
Why it’s important:
As an airspace traffic manager, NASA will play a crucial role in the new industry UAM industry. While the FAA determines certifications for aircraft, NASA will be greatly responsible for the new airspace management technologies. It has already spent the last six years working on its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System, which focuses on building a digital management ‘UAS’ system for unmanned commercial drones. The Grand Challenge event event takes the next big step for both aircraft certification and for UAS systems development.
NASA will be working with Bell Helicopter and others to overcome the current obstacles to commercial UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) operation. On August 29th, it announced funding up to $11 million to work with Bell. NASA names these main obstacles as technological advancements, systems integration, and certification of aircraft and avionics. Through this collaboration, NASA and Bell hope to deliver new technologies for unmanned aerial systems including integrated Detect and Avoid (DAA)...
NASA will be working with Bell Helicopter and others to overcome the current obstacles to commercial UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) operation. On August 29th, it announced funding up to $11 million to work with Bell. NASA names these main obstacles as technological advancements, systems integration, and certification of aircraft and avionics.
Through this collaboration, NASA and Bell hope to deliver new technologies for unmanned aerial systems including integrated Detect and Avoid (DAA) and Command and Control (C2) technologies. Bell seeks to use the technologies it develops alongside NASA in its new Autonomous Pod Transport 70 (APT70). The APT70 is a tail-sitting VTOL with load capacity up to 70lbs, and a top speed up to 100mph. It vertically lifts into the air like a drone, and then rotates into a horizontal flight position to fly like a bi-plane using its built-in fixed wing. A near-final version of the APT70 will conduct a flight demonstration in 2020.
Bell showcased its prototype at XPONENTIAL 2018 aerospace show last May, positioning as having potential military use as well as commercial cargo use. In a military capacity, the ATP could eliminate the need for resupply by vehicle, bringing troops items like goggles, body armor, and batteries.
The collaboration between Bell and NASA will be managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Other partners include Textron Systems, Xwing, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). Bell will lead the design, development, production and systems integration of APT, while Textron Systems will supply command and control operations, Xwing will provide detect and avoid technologies, and CASA will provide weather avoidance technology.
Why it’s important: The Bell ATP70 is one of the first unmanned VTOLs featuring a fixed wing. Unlike many existing UAVs that carry payloads, it has the capability of horizontal flight, making it faster and more efficient, and giving it higher range. The development of technology and certifications for unmanned eVTOLs with fixed-wing capabilities paves the way for similar aircraft with passenger carrying abilities.
Bell will also be using the new technologies developed with NASA in its Air Taxi design. Learn more about the Bell Air Taxi here.
Embraer, Brazilian aerospace conglomerate and third largest civil aircraft manufacturer in the world, has numerous plans for entering the urban air mobility market. Their disruptive market subsidiary EmbraerX officially announced intentions to enter the UAM market two years ago, and launched their first eVTOL in mid-2018, not to mention partnering with Uber to manufacture urban aircraft for Uber Air by 2023. ...
Embraer, Brazilian aerospace conglomerate and third largest civil aircraft manufacturer in the world, has numerous plans for entering the urban air mobility market. Their disruptive market subsidiary EmbraerX officially announced intentions to enter the UAM market two years ago, and launched their first eVTOL in mid-2018, not to mention partnering with Uber to manufacture urban aircraft for Uber Air by 2023.
According to Antonio Campello, chief executive at Embraer X, aside from their development processes in vehicles, Embraer has also devoted resources in developing infrastructure for UAM, such as air traffic control and a business network for aerospace offerings.
With numerous companies entering the UAM market in the past five years, Campello believes that Embraer X’s experience with key innovation ecosystems, and possessing substantial amounts of wealth and resources, are the key competitive advantages that Embraer will be able to use to gain control over this newly developing market.
Another issue will be dealing with public sentiment regarding UAM. While Campello is confident that commercial urban air travel will occur within five years, the timeframe for Uber Air, the far bigger issue will be to bring about customer acceptance and successful integration in UAM infrastructure and socioeconomics. “Relieving bottlenecks in large urban centers may require a ‘3D solution’ alongside a lot of other changes, but [eVTOLs] will enable many people to fly for an attractive price, so [air travel] will become a lot more pervasive,” says Campello.Why it’s important: According to Campello, eVTOL vehicles will become a reality “way sooner than most people think.” The top three producers of civil aircraft have all entered the UAM industry in some format. With Embraer already supporting the manufacturing process behind Uber Air, and several directions within the UAM industry, such as infrastructure and socioeconomic factors, the suggested time frame of five years until commercial UAM becomes a reality doesn’t seem so far-fetched. UAM has not only interested many innovative startups, but has also successfully grabbed the attention some of the biggest companies in aviation, a strong win for the industry.
Sources // Embraer, Forbes
The University of Michigan released a study, published in the Nature Communications on April 9th, comparing the efficiency of conventional ground transportation to a theoretical eVTOL aircraft. The study compared the energy consumption of these vehicles in various scenarios, accounting for various numbers of people and distances. The research team found that for the first 40 km (25 mile), eVTOLs...
The University of Michigan released a study, published in the Nature Communications on April 9th, comparing the efficiency of conventional ground transportation to a theoretical eVTOL aircraft.
The study compared the energy consumption of these vehicles in various scenarios, accounting for various numbers of people and distances. The research team found that for the first 40 km (25 mile), eVTOLs had vastly higher energy consumption, with emission tripling that of an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) and 6 times that of a battery engine vehicle (BEV). However, past that 40 km mark, the energy consumption for eVTOLs fell drastically, with eVTOLs being actually more efficient than ICEVs, and slightly above that of BEVs. This was also under the assumption that eVTOLs would be carrying more passengers compared to ICEVs or BEVs. For the actual emissions per passenger for a trip lasting 100 km (~60 miles), eVTOLs were 52% cleaner than ICEVs and 6% cleaner than BEVs.
The finding that eVTOLs may provide more efficiency than ICEVs and BEVs, combined with the fact that eVTOLs would provide quicker trips and less traffic, has huge implications for the future of the transportation industry. A key fact to consider, according to study co-author Jim Gawron, a graduate student at Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability and its Ross School of Business, is that “You’re able to essentially spread out the emissions more per person… Having multiple passengers also allows you to take more vehicles off the road.”
Considering that current transportation is responsible for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S, with 60% of those emissions come from light duty vehicles like passenger cars, it is probable that we see a shift soon to more BEVs and eVTOLs as opposed to the current dominance of ICEVs.
Why it’s important: University of Michigan’s recent study adds support to the benefits that urban air mobility possesses over conventional transportation, and may lead to increased interest from the general public. While purely a theoretical study, the University of Michigan’s findings may hold significance for the companies interested in entering the UAM industry, specifically in how they should decide structuring their approach into not only creating an actual prototype and final product, but also what specific types of services they will provide with the most benefits.
Sources // University of Michigan, Nature Communications
Bye Aerospace is an American aircraft manufacturer based in Englewood, Colorado, and for the past 12 years has specialized in the design and manufacture of electric aircraft, including unmanned aircraft for geospatial role and light aircraft for the flight training role. CEO George E. Bye founded the company to apply electric configurations along with aerodynamic advances to “design, build and...
Bye Aerospace is an American aircraft manufacturer based in Englewood, Colorado, and for the past 12 years has specialized in the design and manufacture of electric aircraft, including unmanned aircraft for geospatial role and light aircraft for the flight training role. CEO George E. Bye founded the company to apply electric configurations along with aerodynamic advances to “design, build and market aerospace products that will offer significant economic benefits and increases in performance to aerospace markets.”
The centerpiece of Bye Aerospace’s recent innovative efforts is the eFlyer, an all-electric general aviation aircraft that will have zero CO2 emissions and drastically reduce operation costs due to the lack of need for fuel. The eFlyer has a two-seat and four-seat configuration which are both powered by a Siemens propulsion system. The eFlyer 2 began flight testing on February 8 at Denver Centennial Airport with the goal of being the first Part 23 FAA-certified all-electric aircraft to the flight training market. Check out the first flight of the eFlyer (previously named Sun Flyer) below:
In a recent interview documented by AINonline, CEO Bye stated that the “eFlyer’s primary markets [are] flight training and air-taxi services, [so] it makes more sense to make the price of the airplane as reasonable as possible.” This was after the announcement at Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany that solar cells would no longer be standard on the eFlyer wings.
It is evident that the Bye’s recent development and testing of the eFlyer has caught the eye of many operators, as nearly 300 orders have already been placed for the two-seat configuration. Up to 60 of the aircraft orders have come from Norwegian flight school OSM Aviation Academy, while another 18 orders have come from Norwegian partner Elfly AS. Elfly CEO Eric Lithun went as far as to say that the eFlyer will be the “Tesla of the general aviation industry.” OSM Aviation Academy is committed to the development and operation of more environmentally friendly transportation, and urges the airline industry to do the same.Why its important: While the Bye Aerospace eFlyer has a traditional aircraft configuration and is not capable of vertical takeoff and landing, its electric powerplant may enable shorter range flights with quicker turnaround times. In addition to flight training schools, Bye is targeting air-taxi operators as a potential customer of its new all-electric aircraft, where the company may have a competitive advantage to other electric-aircraft manufacturers if it succeeds in being the first Part 23 FAA-certified all-electric aircraft.
Sources // AINonline; Bye Aerospace
Honeywell Aerospace products and services are already found on virtually every commercial, defense and space aircraft. Recently, the company has displayed its commitment to investing in the urban air mobility industry with multiple partnerships. In January, it was announced that Pipistrel and Honeywell will “combine aerospace expertise to address the technical, regulatory and business challenges of the emerging on-demand mobility market”...
Honeywell Aerospace products and services are already found on virtually every commercial, defense and space aircraft. Recently, the company has displayed its commitment to investing in the urban air mobility industry with multiple partnerships. In January, it was announced that Pipistrel and Honeywell will “combine aerospace expertise to address the technical, regulatory and business challenges of the emerging on-demand mobility market” – an effort that will leverage Honeywell’s avionics, navigation, flight control systems connectivity, and other beneficial products and services onto a future Pipistrel vertical takeoff and landing air vehicle to support fully autonomous operations in the future. Further, Honeywell announced plans to have its autonomous navigation and landing technology aboard the Volocopter, an 18-propellor electric VTOL aircraft based in Bruchsal, Germany.
In addition to recent partnership announcements, Honeywell has been developing a hybrid-electric turbogenerator with a primary purpose of adapting it to vehicles in the urban air mobility industry. This powerplant is an electrified version of a 1,100-shaft horsepower HTS900 gas turbine engine already found on many helicopters today, and falls in the “sweet spot [for shaft horsepower],” according to Bryan Wood, who runs the hybrid propulsion division for Honeywell Aerospace’s engines and power systems group.
The engine is projected to produce 30 to 50 percent fewer carbon emissions than the traditional HTS900 engine, and Wood has mentioned that many customers are already very interested in using the engine in eVTOL applications. However, Honeywell plans to have an all-electric engine in the 2023 to 2025 timeframe that will use batteries and fuel cells, omitting the gas turbine completely. The current version of Honeywell’s turbogenerator was on display March 5 – 7 at Honeywell’s Booth during the show at this year’s Heli-Expo in Georgia.
Why its important: As emphasized by Chris Hawley, marketing director at Honeywell Aerospace, the electrified version of the already-efficient HTS900 turbine engine will be cleaner, safer, and quieter than engines on the market today. This technology in which Honeywell has invested its resources has great potential to advance the urban air mobility industry and provide a feasible path forward for electric VTOL aircraft to begin commercial operations.
Sources // Honeywell; AIN
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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Honeywell’s Electric Engine to Advance UAMApril 21, 2019
Back to The Hangar
Within ten years, VTOL developer Sabrewing Aircraft Company plans to bring cargo services to the Aleut Community of St Paul Island. The Aleut tribal community has ordered ten of the Sabre Wing aircraft, and are working with Sabrewing to develop a test range. Saint Paul Island is a small island off the coast of Alaska, only about 10 miles in...
Within ten years, VTOL developer Sabrewing Aircraft Company plans to bring cargo services to the Aleut Community of St Paul Island. The Aleut tribal community has ordered ten of the Sabre Wing aircraft, and are working with Sabrewing to develop a test range.
Saint Paul Island is a small island off the coast of Alaska, only about 10 miles in length. Presumably, this makes the island an ideal initial test site for the Sabrewing VTOLs, as areas of the island can be difficult to reach by traditional cargo airplanes. Sabrewing plans to develop and test its aircraft in Anchorage, completing tests there for both Department of Defense contracts and commercial customers.
Sabrewing has been working on VTOL technology for many years and sees its focus on cargo rather than passengers as an advantage. Said Ed De Reyes, CEO of Sabrewing:
“Most of the start-ups in the urban air mobility space are designed to carry passengers rather than freight. Air cargo is a completely different animal compared to manned aircraft…our competition has been trying to retrofit a manned aircraft to an unmanned one, which isn’t easy.”
Sabrewing plans on developing both two versions of its aircraft: one that with a payload capacity of 800 pounds and a later model with a capacity of 4,400 pounds. The company plans to power the aircraft with a hybrid system that uses a gas turbine to generate electricity for the electric motors. This design is similar to the one currently being tested by Rolls-Royce.
According to Sabrewing, the ACSPI (Aleut Community of Saint Paul Island) has already begun various types of drone operations. In exchange for testing facilities placed on Saint Paul Island, Sabrewing will provide equipment and training for the ACSPI community, who can then initiate and operate a complete test range complex.
Why it’s important: With the Department of Defense interested in VTOL cargo operations by Sabrewing Aircraft Company, the implementation of VTOL services on Saint Paul Island may prove to be one of the fastest in the industry. Saint Paul Island’s remote location and relative proximity to the Sabrewing base in Anchorage offers an excellent opportunity for system testing, giving Sabrewing the potential to take big steps for the VTOL industry.
Sources // Freightwaves
Russia’s Advanced Research Foundation (FPI) is taking another angle at approaching urban air mobility. The FPI cyclocopter, a technical design thought up by the FPI, is a hybrid eVTOL vehicle driven by rotating, cylindrical wings, with each individual wing composed of many small paddles, or ‘winglets’. Utilizing this design, the cyclocopter can quickly change its direction of thrust by altering...
Russia’s Advanced Research Foundation (FPI) is taking another angle at approaching urban air mobility.
The FPI cyclocopter, a technical design thought up by the FPI, is a hybrid eVTOL vehicle driven by rotating, cylindrical wings, with each individual wing composed of many small paddles, or ‘winglets’. Utilizing this design, the cyclocopter can quickly change its direction of thrust by altering the angle of the paddles. Combining the elements of vertical takeoff and landing with conventional forward flight, the cyclocopter is an impressive design based off of the FPI’s conclusion that the their wing design will exhibit the best aerodynamic performance for an airborne vehicle. With better maneuverability than helicopters, a better ability to handle gusts, and significantly lower noise emissions, theoretically, cyclocopters are superior to rotorcraft.
However, the main issue with ‘cycloidal propulsion’ is the scalability of the design. Larger rotor blades like a conventional helicopter blade generate lift through flow over the airfoil. Smaller rotor blades rely on generating lift through utilizing unsteady aerodynamics and leading-edge vortices, like an insect. The latter method is what cyclocopters use, with teams like Professor Moble Benedict’s at Texas A&M’s Advanced Vertical Flight Laboratory successfully building the smallest cyclocopter ever (29 grams). But trying to go larger in size reduces the efficiency of generating lift.
Still, FPI project manager Jan Chibisov is adamant that the cyclocopter is fundamentally superior to helicopters or multicopters.“…[The] cyclocopter is superior in a number of key parameters to multicopters,” Chibisov says. “In particular, with the same dimensions and take-off mass, the cyclocopter requires a much smaller engine power and almost twice the mass of the payload.”
In fact, the FPI reports to have finished separately building and testing the power plant, control system, and other components for their cyclocopter, and are now in the process of finishing their final design. Unmanned flight tests are scheduled for 2020 and manned test flights will follow afterwards.
Why it’s important: If successfully built, a car-sized cyclocopter could be more maneuverable, efficient, stable, and environmentally friendlier than most of the UAM vehicle designs and prototypes today. A small, agile flying machine easily able to maneuver in an urban environment with low emissions and noise levels and lower power requirements has obvious implications for the UAM industry, and urban transportation as a whole.
Sources // Popular Mechanics