The Pipistrel eVTOL Concept was unveiled at the 2nd annual Uber Elevate Summit on May 8th, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA. Previously designed as a blended wing body (BWB), the new 801 eVTOL features 8 lift rotors mounted on a lifting surface inboard of the wing. The Pipistrel team also announced that an entire family of eVTOL’s was being developed for scalability and mission-tailored performance.
However, the Slovenian electric aircraft manufacturer has recently announced a shift in its priorities away from it’s plan to develop the Pipistrel 801 eVTOL for Uber Air’s mobility service. This comes “after delays with the Uber flying taxi program by many international aviation authorities,” the company said. “Continual extensions to the deadline for the development of a flying taxi service, which was commissioned by U.S. company Uber, has given Pipistrel the time to investigate future opportunities, some [of which] have been in planning and development for several years.”
The Uber Air services are set to launch from 2023 in one or more of the early-adopter cities the company has identified, including Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, Australia.
Stage of Development
Aircraft Type: Winged VTOL
Range: 60 nm
Top Speed: 175 mph
Propeller Configuration: 8 propellers for vertical flight; 1 thrust rotor for horizontal, level flight
Passenger/Payload Capacity: Single Passenger
Autonomy Level: Piloted, with Flight Deck provisions for eventual autonomous operations
Motors: Powered by a redundant system of four battery packs, only two of which are required for safe operation at any time
“Pipistrel is not trying to reinvent the helicopter by giving the vehicle many rotors, but is rather embracing dedicated propulsion solutions for cruise and vertical lift with built-in scaling capability.” stated Ivo Boscarol, Pipistrel's founder and general manager.
The company is also partnered with Elan, a Slovenian company that specializes in producing sporting goods. Elan also has extensive experience working with advanced materials, including composites, that are used in a number of its products."
Our Take on Pipistrel
While Pipistrel recently decided to postpone the development of its 801 eVTOL, the company has deep technical roots in manufacturing electric airplanes. The Slovenian company has a similar level of experience with designing, producing, and operating electric aircraft as do others like Dufour Aerospace. Because of this experience, Pipistrel will most likely be successful in implementing an electrical propulsion system in their eVTOL. Their biggest design hurdle is the all new BWB (blended-wing-body) configuration that to date the company has not deployed on a conventionally powered aircraft.