Earlier this week, Airbus announced its latest iteration of its CityAirbus eVTOL aircraft, CityAirbus NextGen. The next generation prototype is the product of several years of development and incorporates lessons learned from the company’s earlier prototypes, including Vahana and CityAirbus.
“We are on a quest to co-create an entirely new market that sustainably integrates urban air mobility into cities while addressing environmental and social concerns,” said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO, in a statement. “Airbus is convinced that the real challenges are as much about urban integration, public acceptance, and automated air traffic management, as about vehicle technology and business models. We build on all of the capabilities to deliver a safe, sustainable, and fully integrated service to society.”
The prototype features a fixed wing and a V-tail stabilizer with 8 electrical propellers. CityAirbus NextGen will have a capacity of four passengers.
“This is our fully electric four-seater,” Joerg P. Mueller, head of urban air mobility at Airbus, said during the summit. “It’s designed to the highest certification standards, in this case, its EASA SC-VTOL, and this is our answer to the urban mobility market that we see out there.”
Unlike other OEM’s, CityAirbus NextGen’s wing does not tilt, reducing design and maintenance complexity. A key design parameter for Airbus in designing NextGen was its noise footprint. CityAirbus NextGen will emit at most 70 decibels while landing and 65 while in cruise flight, which is comparable to the noise level emitted by a household vacuum cleaner.
“Noise is fundamental for such a design,” Mueller said. “We have run a number of test benches where we have set up propellers of different shapes and plate numbers, and we’ve optimized the design in that way. We have even overflown an urban area, have measured the propagation of sound in this city, and the effect it has on people on the ground, together with partners that allows us as well to see in which sense we need to optimize in such a vehicle.”
Airbus plans to fly a prototype of the CityAirbus NextGen by 2023, and predicts certification by 2025.
Why it matters: Airbus has made sustainability and aerial mobility a key vertical within its larger aerospace business. This latest prototype is the result of years of research, flight testing, and market surveys for winning configurations, resulting in a design with heightened maintainability and simplicity for operators. If the NextGen is certified by 2025, it could become a major competitor in the aerial mobility space.