Aviator Cycles is taking a new approach to aerial mobility with personal air vehicles or PAVs Jeff Chimenti, a Houston-based investor and co-founder of Washington based Aviator Cycles has unveiled its prototype in the Woodlands, Texas, just outside of Houston. The company offers a new take on aerial mobility and intends to focus on the recreation market exclusively with its...
Aviator Cycles is taking a new approach to aerial mobility with personal air vehicles or PAVs
Jeff Chimenti, a Houston-based investor and co-founder of Washington based Aviator Cycles has unveiled its prototype in the Woodlands, Texas, just outside of Houston. The company offers a new take on aerial mobility and intends to focus on the recreation market exclusively with its self-dubbed personal air vehicles, or PAV.
“All of this is really happening,” says Chimenti, a Houston-based investor and chief visionary officer and co-founder for the startup. “We’re pushing it forward.” The prototype appears more like a motor cycle or four wheeler that will hover over just a few feet above the ground.
Co-founder Jesse Marcel has owned a patent for a similar technology initially for a prototype called the Aerorunner, GSX. It will be a sports vehicle that will flutter just a few feet above the ground. This will provide a greater level of safety according to the company. Their strategy is to avoid all of the regulations and red tape that the eVTOL industry will face.
Their efforts will not be with competition, however. Last year, California-based Hoversurf announced a similar recreational-based product which will be delivered for $150,000 per unit.
Aviator Cycles is confident, however, that their proprietary propulsive system is a winner and many other companies will end up imitating their design. “Everybody that designs is great, but they’re ultimately going to have to use our propulsion system,” says Chimenti.
The company intends to begin taking reservations in the next six months and begin flights some time in the next year.
Why it matters: Aviator Cycles is taking a unique perspective on their product strategy in the aerial mobility space. Their prototype will likely not compete with other well known eVTOL manufacturers, but rather, fit a niche customer market looking for a futuristic recreational vehicle. Due to its size, other manufacturers can look to Aviator Cycles to innovate as it will offer superior propulsive efficiency when compared to other eVTOL platforms.
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
BLADE Urban Air Mobility has expanded its offerings on the West Coast, now availing customers with direct, on demand flights connecting LAX, DTLA, Burbank, the Westside, Orange County, and more in Southern California. Months after the UAM provider brought their San Francisco Bay services into the public realm, they’ve continued to expand their West Coast market to include Southern California....
BLADE Urban Air Mobility has expanded its offerings on the West Coast, now availing customers with direct, on demand flights connecting LAX, DTLA, Burbank, the Westside, Orange County, and more in Southern California.
Months after the UAM provider brought their San Francisco Bay services into the public realm, they’ve continued to expand their West Coast market to include Southern California.
In an interview with BLADE’s General Manager of West Coast Operations, Shivani Parikh, and BLADE UAM Founder and CEO, Rob Wiesenthal, the new operations were described as an exciting new market for on-demand aerial mobility for the West Coast.
“Since expanding our continuous flight service in Manhattan and San Francisco, we are seeing faster-than-expected adoption by people choosing to fly rather than drive” Parikh stated. “Additionally, Los Angeles is on the forefront of embracing multi-modality transportation options such as auto, bike, and scooter shares as new ways of saving time. BLADE is now enabling another mobility option – the ability to fly short distances bypassing ground traffic on the way to work, home, the airport or to key leisure destinations. Los Angeles’ great weather contributes to an endless flying season for customers to take advantage of beating traffic in one of the most congested cities in the United States.
TransportUP’s Editor, Naish Gaubatz, went for a ride with the BLADE team in Los Angeles to demo the expansion of BLADE’s UAM offerings. The short helicopter ride highlighted the benefits of a dedicated urban air mobility operation in a congested city like Los Angeles – not only were the direct to heliport services at LAX a means to save time, the flight to the West Side showcased the ease of travelling along a route that would normally take almost an hour when the Northbound 405 Freeway is gridlocked (while the flight took less than 10 minutes and included spectacular views to boot).
Additionally, BLADE’s new expansion of services in Southern California play well with the culture of entertainment and luxury excursion that is signature of Los Angeles – and which many travel far to experience. In partnership with a variety of music, cultural, sporting, and large event programmers, BLADE has been able to capture a large amount of on-demand aerial mobility customers who are seeking better and faster ways to reach these marquis events. Not to mention, many of these experiences are accompanied with time at one of BLADE’s signature customer experience facets – the BLADE Lounge. Currently stationed in DTLA, the BLADE Lounge offers customers the chance to unwind with a drink before their flight, or complete some last minute work items. BLADE has stated that prices of flights between LAX, DTLA, the West Side, and Burbank will start at $195.
Many argue that BLADE is piloting UAM operations of tomorrow with a platform that’s functional today by utilizing the most technologically advanced, safest certified rotorcraft on the market. When asked about the transition between helicopters and eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft) as the main aircraft that serve currently heli-dominated routes, CEO Rob Wiesenthal stated “We don’t see the transition as a step function change; there will be opportunities for customers on a limited basis to try eVTOL aircraft when they’re available, certified, and have a track record of performance – but even then the integration into BLADE’s accessible fleet will be measured”
Shivani Parikh also commented on potential future expansion plans for BLADE in SoCal to include Santa Barbara, San Diego, and desert cities on an “as demanded basis”. The general approach, commented Parikh, was utilize early adopting customer feedback campaigns that help to identify the areas for the largest benefit and refinement of BLADE’s current offerings.
Why it’s important: BLADE UAM has few competitors in Southern California – in fact, the closest entity to a competitor currently are helicopter charter services that require booking and coordination days, if not weeks in advance. With BLADE’s UAM platform, customers can book and be airborne in minutes, directly on the way to their destination. In cities like New York and Los Angeles alike, the last few miles of the journey can make all the difference in time savings, and BLADE’s expansion in SoCal could likely be the beginning of many more commercial UAM operations in Los Angeles.
Aerial mobility caught the attention of many in the business and general aviation industry at NBAA’s flagship event This year’s NBAA-BACE (Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition) convention in Las Vegas demonstrated the growing public and industry interest in aerial mobility and more sustainable energy sources in aviation. In year’s past, NBAA has hosted eVTOL manufacturers, but this year signaled the...
Aerial mobility caught the attention of many in the business and general aviation industry at NBAA’s flagship event
This year’s NBAA-BACE (Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition) convention in Las Vegas demonstrated the growing public and industry interest in aerial mobility and more sustainable energy sources in aviation. In year’s past, NBAA has hosted eVTOL manufacturers, but this year signaled the coming change to business and general aviation. The convention featured the UAS/UAM Innovation Display which showcased the numerous stakeholders of aerial mobility including: Uber Elevate, Boeing NeXT and HorizonX, Bell Nexus, Safran, Jaunt, and XTI, among others.
The show opened with NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen declaring that this year’s NBAA-BACE would be “the most exciting convention NBAA has ever hosted.” Perhaps most popular was Bell’s Nexus prototype unrelieved earlier this year. Earlier this year, Scott Drennan, Bell vice president of engineering innovation, told an industry conference, “I want it to be [full] autonomy right away, and I think the technology is there to do that.” Drennan cited the need for 10,000 additional vehicle pilots just for UAM’s early-stage deployment and how the addition of those pilots would inflate direct operating costs, as reported to Aviation International News.
Among the various prototypes and displays found at the convention, many aerial mobility and eVTOL stakeholders were recognized. This year, NBAA President Ed Bolen presented the Meritorious Service to Aviation Award to Ross Perot, Jr., who is partnering with Uber on UAM infrastructure. Eric Allison of Uber Elevate and Sky Dayton of Joby Aviation were among the keynote speakers at the convention and explained how close aerial mobility is to becoming a reality.
Why it matters: Aerial mobility taking center stage at one of aviation’s biggest events signifies a growing interest in the technology and serves as an indicator of how close eVTOL is to a commercial reality. Although many prototype’s entry to service are 3-5 years away, one can not help but be excited over the growing industry interest in the technology. We expect aerial mobility will be a hot topic at not only NBAA but other major aerospace trade shows and conventions in 2020 and beyond.
The two companies completed installation of the MagniX motor on a de Havilland Canada prototype Harbour Air Seaplanes recently entered a partnership with MagniX in order to begin the conversion to the first all-electric airline. For that purpose, the company has installed the MagniX electric motor onto a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, and plans to complete the prototype soon...
The two companies completed installation of the MagniX motor on a de Havilland Canada prototype
Harbour Air Seaplanes recently entered a partnership with MagniX in order to begin the conversion to the first all-electric airline. For that purpose, the company has installed the MagniX electric motor onto a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, and plans to complete the prototype soon in order to begin testing.
Harbour Air announced that the 560kW magni500 electric motor, along with other components, had been installed onto the aircraft. What now remains is the final battery strings, development and installations of wiring, installation of a battery management unit and power system, as well as preliminary tests for the prototype. The company announced the aircraft conversion is progressing normally, and should enter testing by the end of the year.
“With the delivery and successful installation of the magniX motor, we are working hard to connect the internal systems in preparation for its first flight,” the company wrote. Harbour Air is strongly dedicated to the full conversion to electric; Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air believes that electric planes will reduce long-term costs for their fleet. “Electric motors are extremely reliable. They don’t have the same number of moving parts as a turbine or piston engine and they have much better durability,” he said in a statement in March.
The goal of the company is to eventually transition over to a fully electric fleet. However, since the new design still needs approval from both Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration, Harbour Air reported that their new aircraft would not fly commercially until 2022 at the earliest.
Why it’s important: Harbour Air presents an ideal airline for the conversion to a fully-electric fleet, as their flight routes consist of domestic flights in the PNW region. As a result, the current limited operational range of electric motor technology will not have as large of an impact compared to other airlines. The successful conversion of Harbour Air’s fleet will present a valuable opportunity to further develop and refine electric battery technology, which could potentially improve the utility of fully electric eVTOL aircraft.
Source // New Atlas
A new eVTOL design is in the works by aviation legend Burt Rutan The 76-year-old aerospace engineer and designer, famous for his work on the Voyager piston and suborbital SpaceShipOne rocket, confirmed that he is currently in the middle of designing a new aircraft based on eVTOL aircraft. However, he revealed little else, aside from the fact: “It’s pretty different...
A new eVTOL design is in the works by aviation legend Burt Rutan
The 76-year-old aerospace engineer and designer, famous for his work on the Voyager piston and suborbital SpaceShipOne rocket, confirmed that he is currently in the middle of designing a new aircraft based on eVTOL aircraft. However, he revealed little else, aside from the fact: “It’s pretty different from the 170 different outfits that are doing eVTOL now. And that’s all I can say about it.”
Having retired from the industry and his position as CEO of Scaled Composites back in 2011, Rutan has still been active in aerospace design, with his two most recent projects both involving electric power. His final project under Scaled Composites, an experimental flying car called the BiPod, featured gas engines which supplied energy to electric generators that drove motors for the aircraft’s propellers. However, the BiPod was only limited to short test flight “hops” before Rutan’s retirement.
Rutan most recently revealed the SkiGull amphibious aircraft, a two-seat hybrid aircraft under private development. The SkiGull features two 8.9 kW electric motors, as well as a single piston aircraft engine, that power the plane for docking and conventional purposes. While the electric motors are mainly intended for use in docking, they are capable of flying the plane for 8 hours without aid from the main engine.
Why it’s important: While Rutan has not revealed any details yet on his newest project, his previous innovations in aircraft design give reason to believe that his eVTOL design will possess significant variations from the other eVTOLs we have seen so far. Rutan’s involvement could mean the possible reveal of the next “Voyager” of the eVTOL industry, and will nevertheless provide an exciting development towards the industry.
Source // Aviation Week
On October 22nd, urban air taxi developer Volocopter successfully completed its first urban manned flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay. Not only was the latest demonstration flight the first manned test for Volocopter, it was the second ever test held in an urban flight setting following an autonomous urban flight test in Stuttgart, Germany. Volocopter has been planning this Singapore demonstration since...
On October 22nd, urban air taxi developer Volocopter successfully completed its first urban manned flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay.
Not only was the latest demonstration flight the first manned test for Volocopter, it was the second ever test held in an urban flight setting following an autonomous urban flight test in Stuttgart, Germany. Volocopter has been planning this Singapore demonstration since October of 2018, and the flight occurred right on schedule, marking a major success.
This flight represents a massive achievement for Volocopter, pushing its agenda ever closer to commercialized flight. The Volocopter team has been working extremely hard in the last year to push its urban mobility solutions. In just this year, it has published its own whitepaper study on urban air mobility, released its newest vehicle concept ‘VoloCity’, and worked with the ADAC foundation to complete a staged rescue mission.
The Singapore flight test was the last in Volocopter’s test series to validate and verify the ability of the 2X to fly over this area. The company, along with Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT), hopes to bring commercial air taxi flights to Singapore in the quickly nearing future. The latest test flight covered a distance of approximately 1.5 km and lasted for two minutes at an average cruising height of 40m.
“The flight today in Singapore was the most advanced Volocopter flight yet and the piloted flight was as stable as ever. At the same time, we are showcasing a prototype of our full-scale VoloPort Infrastructure, allowing for a realistic demonstration of air taxi boarding and maintenance services. Never before have people been this close to experiencing what Urban Air Mobility in the city of tomorrow will feel like.” -Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter.
Startup Eviation Aircraft has gained two more customers for its pioneering electric commuter aircraft. Israel-based electric aircraft company Eviation may be “building the future of regional transportation” with the industry’s first all-electric aircraft. The company is based in Israel and stood up their US headquarters in Prescott, AZ during Q3 of 2018. Eviation is currently developing the Alice, an 11-seat electric aircraft...
Startup Eviation Aircraft has gained two more customers for its pioneering electric commuter aircraft.
Israel-based electric aircraft company Eviation may be “building the future of regional transportation” with the industry’s first all-electric aircraft. The company is based in Israel and stood up their US headquarters in Prescott, AZ during Q3 of 2018. Eviation is currently developing the Alice, an 11-seat electric aircraft with 95% composite material structure. As of June 2019, the aircraft was said to be ready for its first flight some time “in the next few months.” However, Eviation now expects its first flight next year with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certification slipping toward 2022, according to Bar-Yohay, who spoke in Tel Aviv, near where the company is based.
While both buyers of the Alice aircraft are well-recognized in the aviation industry, Eviation’s Chief Executive Officer Omer Bar-Yohay declined to name them. Formal announcements of the two American customers are expected early next year.
The Alice’s cruise speed of 260 knots and range of 650 miles is powered by distributed propulsion – one pusher propellor at the tail, and one on each wingtip of the aircraft for the sake of redundancy and drag reduction. Other articulated design features of Alice are the low operating cost (by avoiding traditional fuel), advanced materials and thermal management, vehicle autonomy, and minimized noise pollution. Eviation expects that the aircraft will be charged by mobile charging stations similar to aviation fuel trucks that are currently used – each hour of flight would necessitate a 30-minute charge.
Meanwhile, work is already taking place on installing charging infrastructure for initial customer Cape Air, a regional airline with operations in New York and New England that announced an order at the Paris Air Show in June, as well as on the U.S. West Coast for one of the new buyers, Bar-Yohay said. Talks are underway with a fourth possible client in Australia, while the CEO has previously said that prospective customers include major U.S. carriers like United Airlines Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., which are interested in planes to feed their hubs.
The U.K. also represents a natural market, given its relatively small size and plethora of regional airports, Bar-Yohay said. The Alice would be well suited to Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s Connect arm (previously called ‘Flybe’) which has an average flight time of 55 minutes.
Why it’s important: Even prior to the first flight of Eviation’s Alice, the company has already secured 150 total orders for its all-electric aircraft. The Alice is strategically sized to fit a specific market in the regional mobility market of aviation, which is thought to be a ‘sweet-spot’ for the implementation of electric propulsion due to power and recharging requirements. The strong initial demand for Eviation’s product will provide a proof-of-concept opportunity with the possibility of eventually scaling its electric propulsion technologies to larger aircraft models, as well as for urban aerial mobility aircraft.
Sources // Bloomberg; Eviation
Alphabet’s Wing drones begin the delivery of select FedEx packages directly to Virginia homes. On October 18, for the first time in the United States, a drone completed a scheduled commercial residential delivery. The drone delivery was conducted by Wing Aviation, in collaboration with FedEx Express, as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program...
Alphabet’s Wing drones begin the delivery of select FedEx packages directly to Virginia homes.
On October 18, for the first time in the United States, a drone completed a scheduled commercial residential delivery. The drone delivery was conducted by Wing Aviation, in collaboration with FedEx Express, as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The FedEx Express package delivery to a home in Christiansburg, Virginia marks the launch of the first scheduled, commercial residential drone delivery service and the first scheduled e-commerce delivery via drone delivery trial in the United States.
For the duration of the trial, Wing drones will transport select FedEx packages to qualifying homes in Christiansburg, demonstrating the benefits of drone delivery for last-mile delivery service. Wing received an expanded air carrier certificate from the FAA earlier this year so it could demonstrate safe commercial operation in the larger Blacksburg-Roanoke area. Meanwhile, the FAA Approved UPS as Drone Airline for Commercial Deliveries, making UPS the first official drone airline with a full Part-135 FAA certification. Learn more about the launch of the company’s service and its collaboration with drone technology company, Matternet, here.
“Innovation has been part of the FedEx DNA since day one, and we are always looking for new and better ways to deliver the world to our customers’ doorsteps,” said Don Colleran, President & CEO of FedEx Express. “For our customers in Christiansburg, this collaboration will test the latest innovation in the last mile of a residential package delivery. We hope that this latest addition to our delivery options will enhance the last mile service for urgent same-day deliveries, customers in rural or semi-rural areas, and other exceptional delivery needs.”
Customers of FedEx who live within designated delivery zones in Christiansburg, Virginia, and who opt-in to the Wing delivery service, will be able to receive eligible packages via drone during the trial program, provided certain operating conditions are met. Wing’s pilot program also includes a collaboration with Walgreens, allowing program participants to order health and wellness products through Wing’s delivery app.
To learn more about Wing’s U.S. commercial drone delivery pilot program, visit wing.com/virginia.
Why it’s important: Although Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is limited by the region in which it can commercially operate its Wing drones, Virginia is showing to be a successful proving grounds. With the launch of home deliveries, Wing has also managed to beat out Amazon Prime Air in the pursuit of offering last-mile package deliveries via drone. However, there is still ample market share for manufacturers and operators to begin offering similar services, as intended by the FedEx-Wing and UPS-Matternet collaborations.
Source // FedEx Newsroom; Wing Aviation
Just six months after unveiling the latest version of its prototype, Munich based air taxi company Lilium has released footage of its five-passenger jet making the transition from vertical to horizontal flight: The Lilium jet can seat 5 passengers, fly at 186mph, is all-electric, and has a range of nearly 200 miles. Lilium plans to build not just the aircraft...
Just six months after unveiling the latest version of its prototype, Munich based air taxi company Lilium has released footage of its five-passenger jet making the transition from vertical to horizontal flight:
The Lilium jet can seat 5 passengers, fly at 186mph, is all-electric, and has a range of nearly 200 miles. Lilium plans to build not just the aircraft itself, but an entire urban and regional air mobility system in Europe that will allow people to fly anywhere at the tap of a button.
Lilium has been working on its jet air taxi since 2015, and flew the first two-seater prototype in 2017. Since then, the company has gained great prestige by hiring former executives from Gett, Tesla, Airbus, Audi, BMW, and Rolls Royce Aerospace. Lilium has established its software engineering headquarters in London, and is currently seeking to raise an additional $500 million.
The latest prototype, which exhibited speeds of over 100km/h earlier this week, features a total of 36 ducted funs, which are built into the wing itself. During vertical take-off, these point straight down, and then tilt slowly upward to become flush with the wing and provide horizontal thrust as in a tradition airplane. Because these small motors are electric, they feature some of the best power-to-weight ratios in the entire aviation industry, with a total of 2000 horsepower available.
“The Lilium Jet continues to meet our expectations, delivering excellent in-flight performance and remarkably smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight. ” –Leandro Bigarella, Head of Flight Testing.
This test marks the completion of the Lilium Jet’s first phase of testing, which has consisted of over 100 ground and air tests. The company will now move into the next stage of testing where the aircraft will endure higher speed operations and eventually attain certification.
With this latest announcement, Lilium has also announced the completion of its first large-scale manufacturing facility, which is 3000 square feet. It has also begun construction of a much larger facility, and hired Yves Yemsi, former Head of Program Quality for the Airbus A350, as Chief Program Officer.
Lilium plans to launch commercial services in multiple cities around the world by 2025. To learn more about the Jet and its mission, visit the Lilium website.
Why it’s important: Many industry experts have named the transition from vertical to horizontal flight as one of the greatest engineering challenges in VTOL design. Lilium has now overcome this important barrier, marking its jet as one of the highest-performing eVTOL prototypes in the industry. With this latest announcement, Lilium continues to make timely progress toward its planned 2025 commercial launch.
The world’s first full-scale air taxi vertiport has been unveiled today at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Singapore. The launch of VoloPort speaks to the continuation of success for Volocopter after raising over 50M Euros in its Series C funding round and completion of a staged medical rescue demonstration. The VoloPort is the outcome of an exciting...
The world’s first full-scale air taxi vertiport has been unveiled today at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Singapore.
The launch of VoloPort speaks to the continuation of success for Volocopter after raising over 50M Euros in its Series C funding round and completion of a staged medical rescue demonstration.
The VoloPort is the outcome of an exciting collaboration between Volocopter, the German urban air mobility and air taxi pioneer, and Skyports, the vertiport developer, owner and operator. Volocopter and Skyports announced today that they will continue their partnership with the aim of introducing commercial air taxi services in Singapore and beyond.
“The VoloPort is an important step towards establishing an entire air taxi solution in Singapore. Skyports has identified a number of potential VoloPort locations and air taxi routes across the city state. We look forward to the next stage of our exciting partnership with Volocopter as we work towards the introduction of commercial air taxi services in the city state,” says Duncan Walker, Managing Director of Skyports.
“There are three major aspects that need to be in place for urban air mobility to become reality: the aircraft, the infrastructure, and the necessary regulation for both. Standing inside the VoloPort makes Urban Air Mobility feel extremely real and demonstrates that air taxi operations are not a faraway future, but very feasible to achieve within the next two to five years. Today marks a fantastic step forward!” –Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter.
As part of the ITS World Congress, Volocopter and Skyports have built up the VoloPort prototype on the Float at Marina Bay. During the conference numerous visitors are expected at the VoloPort, including representatives from the EU Commission, the EASA, and the Ministry of Transport of various countries.
The VoloPort demonstrates numerous capabilities to support a smooth customer journey as well as operational processes. As such, it allows industry leaders, and the public to understand what they might expect when using a VoloPort in the near future. A static Volocopter 2X vehicle is also on display at the heart of the VoloPort.
The VoloPort is designed to offer an exceptional passenger experience, using the most modern safety and security processes. Its modular design can be easily adapted to fit rooftops, railway stations, parking lots and other metropolitan locations. It will accommodate a wide range of electric air taxis, serving business travelers, tourists and anyone else fed up with sitting in traffic.
Ground-based infrastructure is critical to the success of urban air mobility (UAM). VoloPorts are the only physical infrastructure required for so called eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) passenger air taxis to take off and land and are a vital means of establishing commercial operations in urban environments.
In support of their expansion plans Volocopter opened an office in Singapore in January 2019 and has started to build up a local team. Skyports followed suit in September 2019 and will be hiring full-time local staff in early 2020.
Why it matters: VoloPort offers a vision into the future of the infrastructure opportunities in the aerial mobility industry. The sleek design and smooth operation of these vertiports will provide passengers and eVTOL stakeholders with a pleasant experience from door to aircraft, unlike many of today’s commercial airports. This unveiling marks a big step towards aerial mobility becoming a reality around the globe.
On October 18, EHang announced a strategic partnership with Vodafone to collaborate on aerial mobility. EHang, a Guangzhou-based autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform company, has been working closely with Vodafone, one of the world’s largest telecommunication and technology service providers with over 600 million customers globally, to collaborate on building out an urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem. Their goal...
On October 18, EHang announced a strategic partnership with Vodafone to collaborate on aerial mobility.
EHang, a Guangzhou-based autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform company, has been working closely with Vodafone, one of the world’s largest telecommunication and technology service providers with over 600 million customers globally, to collaborate on building out an urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem. Their goal is to first establish the ecosystem in Germany, then expand to all of Europe.
Under the agreement, Vodafone will become EHang’s exclusive partner to provide connectivity to all EHang AAVs operating in Europe by equipping them with Vodafone SIM cards. EHang will become Vodafone’s exclusive UAM partner.
Through the Vodafone network, individual passenger and logistics AAVs will be able to communicate with the command-and-control centers that regulate their operations as well as with each other, enabling safer and more efficient transportation through urban air space.
“Every AAV requires digital connectivity to ensure the coordination of air traffic, so fast networks like 5G are critical to enabling sustainable pilotless air travel and freight delivery systems,” said EHang Founder, Chairman, and CEO Hu Huazhi. “5G is also a key infrastructure component for the commercial deployment of AAVs, since it enables take-offs and landings that are precisely controlled within centimeters.”
Once the regulatory framework allows, EHang and Vodafone also intend to collaborate on AAV test flights and will further work together on mobility platform services that provide digital and streaming content to AAV passengers while in-vehicle, enable payments, and support identity verification.
Vodafone CEO Hannes Ametsreiter said: “Autonomous air taxis will enable increased mobility options for all of us in the future. They will complement existing modes of transportation but allow us to fly above traffic jams if needed.”
EHang’s mission is to make safe, autonomous and eco-friendly air mobility accessible to everyone. Its two-seater EHang 216 passenger model provides pilotless air transportation services and has offered flight demonstrations in countries around the world.
In order to build out the UAM ecosystem and eventually launch regular routes for passenger transportation, EHang works with regulators, and partners with companies worldwide to develop standards and infrastructure for take-off and landing zones, battery charging stations, and mobile communications. EHang’s logistics AAVs are already in regular use via a pilot project that EHang is conducting in partnership with logistics company DHL-Sinotrans.
Why it’s important: EHang is one of the furthest companies forward in developing aerial mobility solutions. Its passenger aircraft have already completed hundreds of test flights, some of which have even been autonomous, with a planned service launch in Guangzhou. This new partnership with Vodafone for reliable and fast connectivity will allow Ehang to take major steps forward to the reality of UAM in China and the world over.
On October 28th through 30th in Las Vegas, Nevada, industry experts and stakeholders throughout the UAV industry will meet and gather to push the industry forward. The 5th Annual Commercial UAV Expo, October 28-30 in Las Vegas, has become the industry’s biggest gathering where attendees can see the latest innovations and applications of commercial drone technology and a glimpse into the...
On October 28th through 30th in Las Vegas, Nevada, industry experts and stakeholders throughout the UAV industry will meet and gather to push the industry forward.
The 5th Annual Commercial UAV Expo, October 28-30 in Las Vegas, has become the industry’s biggest gathering where attendees can see the latest innovations and applications of commercial drone technology and a glimpse into the future of Urban Air Mobility (UAM). In addition to 190 of the world’s top UAS vendors along with 2,500+ attendees from 60 nations, keynoters include Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator and Bala Ganesh, VP Advanced Technology Group at UPS who will discuss urban air mobility and package delivery. Speakers from Uber, Urban Air Mobility News and many UAS CEOs will highlight the sessions. Live Outdoor Flying Demonstrations, Workshops and Demo Room presentations are set to provide attendees with a real sense of how the present and future of the UAS industry is taking shape, both in the Americas and globally.
The Expo is one of the largest in the world for commercial UAV applications. Among the attendees are exhibitors and stakeholders of construction, energy & utilities, forestry & agriculture, infrastructure & transportation, public safety & emergency services, security, surveying & mapping, and more. Read the full list of exhibitors here.
As part of the conference, UAV industry experts will share key insights into the issues asset owners face when implementing unmanned aerial systems, including systems selection and integration; developing enterprise workflows, guidelines and policies; data management and integration; and legal, safety and regulatory considerations. Plenary sessions and panels cover topics of interest to all end-users regardless of industry, while breakout sessions focus on UAV technology, applications and opportunities in the various UAS applicable markets.
Anyone who is interested in furthering the UAV industry or already has a company invested in UAV technology will have an opportunity to collaborate and meet with experts from all areas of the field. The Expo is free to attendees who register by October 27. Register for the conference here.
Why it’s important: The Commercial UAV expo represents one of the world’s largest gatherings of UAV industry experts and proponent companies. While larger vehicles are in development, the emergence of UAV technology for commercial applications sets the groundwork for for urban aerial mobility, putting the beginnings of this technology to the test and showing its potential.
Sources: Commercial UAV Expo Las Vegas
Will Boeing and Porsche Bring these Products to Market? This article appeared first in Forbes and is shared on TransportUP with permission. Last week, Boeing and Porsche signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly explore the premium urban air mobility market. The word “explore” suggests they think premium UAM remains some ways off. Given that Porsche doesn’t exactly target fleet...
Will Boeing and Porsche Bring these Products to Market?
This article appeared first in Forbes and is shared on TransportUP with permission.
Last week, Boeing and Porsche signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly explore the premium urban air mobility market. The word “explore” suggests they think premium UAM remains some ways off. Given that Porsche doesn’t exactly target fleet buyers, some have speculated this partnership will produce a “flying sports car.”
So are Porsche and Boeing going to build personal vehicles for the high net worth crowd? Porsche might have an interest in building such a car to promote their brand. It could look like targeting a segment of the supercar market without the potential for cannibalizing existing sales. However, if the alliance follows the economic interests of both parties, this alliance will focus on creating fleet aircraft with a healthy dose of performance and luxury cues for the wealthy.
There will be a flying sports car market for individuals who wish to fly (and drive) the vehicle themselves. Terrafugia, AeroMobil, and PAL-V have vehicles in process targeting this market. These flying cars have list prices starting at $200,000 and can cost more than $1,200,000. Flying sports cars could change travel patterns to vacation homes or eventually even work in certain circumstances. They will probably represent an offshoot of the supercar market or the very top end of the car market.
I can’t wait to fly one, but the market in units will be relatively small for affordability reasons. Think thousands of units per year. The entire luxury car market in the U.S. will be about $10 billion in 2019, but nearly all of that market is for cars below $150,000. Jonathan Carrier, Vice President of Corporate Development for AeroMobil validates this point, “The total addressable market for flying cars above $500,000 is perhaps 10,000 units by 2030, but realistically the privately-owned market will total 1000 units per year. Supercar market dynamics will be key: exclusivity, performance and customer experience.”
Fleet models can drive the cost to enter the UAM market much lower than the alternatives and thereby stimulate the market. Instead of paying $200,000 plus upfront for a personal air vehicle, even if it isn’t a flying sports car, wealthy individuals could pay a reasonable cost per trip. Not surprisingly, Porsche Consulting suggests the overall eVtol market will total $32B market, by 2035.
However, even a fleet UAM model with high levels of utilization and seat occupancy won’t immediately support massive substitution for auto traffic. Today, driving a large sedan, the type of vehicle that a black car service might use, costs around about $0.72 per vehicle mile. At an average occupancy of 1.67 people (not including the driver), the cost per seat mile falls to $0.43/seat mile. (Of course, for a black car service the cost would be much higher to pay for the driver.) At Elevate this year, Uber predicted that at inception UAM cost per seat mile will exceed $5.70 per seat mile. At scale Uber projects a cost of $1.86 per seat mile for a UAM with all four seats occupied. These estimates assume the UAM programs hit their targets and don’t take into account that the same technical innovations that make the decline in seat miles costs for UAM possible will also drive down the cost per seat mile of automobiles.
The superior operating economics for fleets, the high purchase costs for personal UAM vehicles and the time and effort required to get a pilot’s license will ensure that UAM manufacturers sell many fleet vehicles for every personal vehicle they sell. As a result, fleet vehicles should become the priority in Boeing’s and Porsche’s joint capital investment plans.
Market Sizing and Who Will Fly in UAM Vehicles
The fleet market for UAM vehicles will grow off the base of UAM applications that helicopters fill today and then into the black car market. After years of dormancy, the commuter helicopter business has started to grow with Voom creating a moderate success in Sao Paolo and Mexico City and Blade building a nice business in New York. Uber recently joined the fray by starting services in New York and has announced service in the Bay Area. Helicopters currently cost around $1,200 per flight hour to operate, or between $9-10 per seat mile for a six-passenger aircraft. That is 70-80% more than Uber’s projections for its initial UAM service for a four-passenger aircraft (depending on whether you measure by cost per flight hour or cost per seat mile basis). Cutting that much cost could cause these markets to grow by three times or more. Most of these customers will come from more expensive car services. Uber Black, for example, typically costs over three times UberX and as UAM costs fall some black car customers will naturally choose to step up.
People often use helicopter services even though it costs more and doesn’t always save time. Recently, The Drive echoed the classic New York Times taxi helicopter race article from the 1970s using Uber’s new helicopter service to go to JFK. Their case study showed that public transport took less time than Uber’s service while acknowledging times might vary depending on the complexity of multi-model connections. In the Bloomberg version, the rider in the helicopter spent $364 for two people and took 43 minutes to arrive despite the eight-minute flight time. In the end, the attractiveness of the service from a functional standpoint will probably depend on the time of day, which drives traffic congestion, and the proximity of the origin or destination to the helipad. However, in addition to these specific time and geographic advantages, helicopter services have also grown because they are a premium product.
The Role of Performance Cues and Customer Experience
Today, helicopter service is a product for those with very high budgets. In the future, however, the people who will use these services might look a lot like people who buy one of Porsche’s more affordable sports cars. Wealthier individuals who value their time and businesspeople in a rush value premium experiences and status. Less hassle, lounges, and priority boarding remain valuable in commercial aviation even in the era of low-cost airlines, and these needs are often reflected in customer experience design for services like Blade. Not surprisingly, Porsche has worked with Delta Private Jets on the ground leg of private jet trips to create seamless, premium experiences.
Unlike the commercial aviation market where airlines (for example Eos and Max Jet) were not able to successfully customize entire aircraft to premium segments, vehicle design will likely play an important role for fleet UAM models. On the one hand, wealthy clients will continue to find exclusivity, performance cues, and luxury design attractive just as they do in the luxury car market. Exclusivity will be far more important in the UAM market than in the commercial aviation markets due to the small size of the aircraft and the more intimate nature of the experience. The risk associated with some of the well-publicized ride-sharing challenges JetSmarter faced in the private jet market, always an aspirational area for the well-to-do, will only intensify these concerns.
Similarly, while the well-off UAM customer might not have the money for a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or a flying sports car and they may not personally fly their UAM vehicle, they will not want to fly in the UAM equivalent of a Yugo. For proof points beyond cars, competition in the private jet market is again instructive. One could argue that flight speed makes little practical difference for most private flights (except perhaps by increasing fuel bills), but nonetheless, it remains an important differentiating feature for private jets. Interiors also play a key role in differentiating for private aviation and Porsche Design Studio has worked in this area previously to leverage its expertise from autos. On the other hand, fleet operators also care deeply about the cost of operation, so fleet UAM will use these cues while controlling operating costs.
Only Porsche has strong economic motives to pursue the personal market. Small market sizes shouldn’t create an impediment for them. It is a complement to what they already have and they have effectively pursued analogous strategies in the auto market. Boeing has less at stake in terms of brand connection to a high-end flying sports car and its BBJ business is of less relative importance financially. In the BBJ business, for example, the interior design is done by third parties like GDC Technics.
Both parties do have a significant interest in the fleet market. UAM will probably start from a base where it serves a relatively small core market of wealthy individuals and business people that prefer UAM service to expensive car transport options. That will represent a new, attractive market for both Porsche and Boeing. While initial market sizing estimates for UAM might seem aggressive without lower costs, over time the market will grow. Whoever wins the initial premium market will have a great market position in an attractive segment and a strong, aspirational brand it can take to the mass market. Porsche represents a great starting point either as an ingredient brand to the long-term UAM brand or as a UAM brand on its own. As noted above, the vehicle will need a luxury, performance-oriented design to go with the premium services. Porsche is the perfect partner to help Boeing get there on both of these dimensions and Boeing can provide the expertise to make it fly.
EHang and Azerbaijan Airlines join to manage UAV traffic at Heydar Aliyev International. The agreement was signed on October 9, 2019 in Baku by EHang Founder, Chairman and CEO Huazhi Hu and Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) President Jahangir Asgarov. EHang has recently made signficant strides in advancing the operations and implementation of its cutting-edge autonomous air vehicle (AAV) technologies, and is...
EHang and Azerbaijan Airlines join to manage UAV traffic at Heydar Aliyev International.
The agreement was signed on October 9, 2019 in Baku by EHang Founder, Chairman and CEO Huazhi Hu and Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) President Jahangir Asgarov.
EHang has recently made signficant strides in advancing the operations and implementation of its cutting-edge autonomous air vehicle (AAV) technologies, and is now considering filing for a U.S. initial public offering (IPO). The company continues to seek worldwide opportunities to increase deliveries of vehicles and begin flights in cities, proven by over 100 passenger-carrying autonomous test flights.
The command-and-control center will allow Azerbaijan Air Navigation Services (AZANS), the air navigation services provider for the Republic of Azerbaijan, to control UAV traffic on the airport’s premises and prevent the unauthorized use of UAVs. It will be fully integrated with the Azerbaijani air traffic control system, serving more than 500 aircraft daily, 300 of which are transit flights over Azerbaijan.
The command-and-control center will also equip AZANS with technologies including 3D mapping and terrain scanning to support airfield design and aerial navigation map development. A future web application could include UAV and pilot registration information, certification documents and permissions for flight procedures. As part of the agreement, EHang will also train UAV specialists at the National Academy of Aviation of Azerbaijan and build a UAV management simulator complex.
“UAVs represent a significant opportunity to optimize airport operations, but it is important to launch them into the right infrastructural framework,” said Hu Huazhi. “Our command-and-control center enables the seamless integration of new aerial mobility options into existing air traffic patterns and we are excited to partner with AZANS on this project, which paves the way for future partnerships with aviation authorities globally.”
Why it’s important: Heydar Aliyev International Airport has set a convincing precedent as it recently became the first airport in the world to completely switch to Cloud technologies. Now, the implementation of a UAV traffic management system further demonstrates ways by which airports can prepare for technological advancements in aviation and airspace management.