LYTE Aviation, a new advanced air mobility innovator, has just revealed its 40-seat hybrid eVTOL SkyBus and SkyTruck programs. Its LA-44 SkyBus and complementary SkyTruck cargo variant are vertical take-off and landing vehicles – designed to be five times more fuel efficient than current helicopters and support a 4.5 tonne payload, by employing hybrid-electric propulsion technology.
“The use of turbine engines will likely remain unavoidable for the foreseeable future, so in order to achieve useful and business-sensitive ranges as well as quicker time to market, we have opted for a hybrid, partly electric VTOL,” LYTE founder and CEO Freshta Farzam said.
Unveiled at the Helicopter Investor’s London 2023 conference, the LA-44 is powered by four conventional turbine engines, running on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) complemented with four electric motors at the wingtips for control and stability, powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The turboprop engines of the SkyBus will be capable of using Jet-A or sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), but LTYE’s ultimate objective is to rework the aircraft with all-hydrogen propulsion. In the meantime, the SkyBus is slated to offer a range of 1,000 km with a max speed of 300 km/hr powered by its hybrid electric tandem tilt-wing design.
“Conventional, highly reliable turboprops are the best option for our aircraft program for the time being, with the aim to operate and refuel practically anywhere with the current infrastructure. With the constant evolution and expected investment in global infrastructure, including vertiports, energy sources (SAF & green Hydrogen) and electric power plants, the ambition would be to become fully hydrogen-electric in the future,” Farzam said, aiming to displace air transport and land transport modalities such as buses, trains and trucks.
Why it’s important: Given the large size and noise footprint of the piloted SkyBus passenger aircraft, it may be tough for LTYE to secure certification and public acceptance. However, the company plans to pursue entry into service of its SkyTruck cargo variant as a primary goal, which will prove the technology and enable operation away from populated areas while accumulating hours on the airframe and supporting infrastructure.
Lyte has already held talks with prospective infrastructure partners and operators in the Middle East, while also targeting countries such as Norway and Canada as early-adopter markets. The project was initially funded by private investors, and LYTE is now preparing to launch a Series A round to fund building a full-scale prototype by 2024.