Aircraft

Australian eVTOL prototype debuts a new spin on the tilt rotor

Australian eVTOL prototype deb...
Australia's AMSL Aero has unveiled a full-scale prototype airframe for its Vertiia transitioning eVTOL
Australia's AMSL Aero has unveiled a full-scale prototype airframe for its Vertiia transitioning eVTOL
View 10 Images
Australia's AMSL Aero has unveiled a full-scale prototype airframe for its Vertiia transitioning eVTOL
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Australia's AMSL Aero has unveiled a full-scale prototype airframe for its Vertiia transitioning eVTOL
Two banks of four tilting rotors
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Two banks of four tilting rotors
AMSL Aero is partnering with CareFlight, which is hoping to introduce eVTOL air ambulance services as soon as 2023
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AMSL Aero is partnering with CareFlight, which is hoping to introduce eVTOL air ambulance services as soon as 2023
AMSL Aero founders Siobhan Lyndon and Andrew Moore with CareFlight CEO Mick Frewen
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AMSL Aero founders Siobhan Lyndon and Andrew Moore with CareFlight CEO Mick Frewen
Not visible in this render are the small wings attached to the back of the props that will provide lift in horizontal flight
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Not visible in this render are the small wings attached to the back of the props that will provide lift in horizontal flight
These small wings will tilt with the props so as not to block airflow
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These small wings will tilt with the props so as not to block airflow
AMSL's media launch for the Vertiia
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AMSL's media launch for the Vertiia
Large electric rotors attached to a carbon fiber pole on tilting mounts
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Large electric rotors attached to a carbon fiber pole on tilting mounts
The Vertiia prototype will begin test flights when it's ready at Narromine Airport in New South Wales
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The Vertiia prototype will begin test flights when it's ready at Narromine Airport in New South Wales
Careflight's founders: CEO Andrew Moore is an aeronautical engineer and pilot, while COO Siobhan Lyndon has degrees in law and business, and a decade's experience in senior leadership positions at Google
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Careflight's founders: CEO Andrew Moore is an aeronautical engineer and pilot, while COO Siobhan Lyndon has degrees in law and business, and a decade's experience in senior leadership positions at Google
View gallery - 10 images

An Australian company has popped out of stealth mode to reveal a new electric VTOL aircraft that is already at the pre-flight prototype stage. AMSL Aero's Vertiia aircraft can fly up to 800 km (500 miles) on hydrogen, and it'll start out as an air ambulance.

The Vertiia has been developed in conjunction with the University of Sydney and autonomy and sensor specialists Mission Systems. It's a transitioning multirotor, with eight large props mounted on two wide carbon fiber poles extending from the upper tail and lower front of a slim, pod-shaped cabin. These props have the ability to tilt from pointing vertically upward for takeoff, hover and landing, to fully horizontal in cruise flight. Having eight of them provides a decent level of redundancy in case something fails.

Small wings are attached to the backsides of the props, tilting in unison with the props so they don't block airflow, and once a certain speed is reached, this box wing configuration will allow efficient winged flight. AMSL says the aircraft is rated to cruise at around 300 km/h (186 mph) and it'll be piloted on debut, but will have autonomous capabilities built in, ready to come online when such things become legal.

Not visible in this render are the small wings attached to the back of the props that will provide lift in horizontal flight
Not visible in this render are the small wings attached to the back of the props that will provide lift in horizontal flight

The company is making a big call, saying this will be "the most efficient eVTOL in the world," perhaps due to its small, slim, tandem two- or three-seat cabin and lightweight carbon fiber architecture. We're interested to learn more about this claim, and where else the Vertiia design team has managed to find efficiencies others have missed.

Range will differ depending on energy storage options; AMSL is working on figures around 250 km (155 miles) for a battery-powered version that'll require long charges between flights, and 800 km (500 miles) on a hydrogen powertrain, which will also enable quick refueling anywhere you can get a hydrogen pump installed. The latter, at this stage, is still unproven technology, but once it's up and running it should be a no-brainer for the entire eVTOL segment.

AMSL Aero has signed a partnership with CareFlight, an aeromedical company that wants to use these clean, convenient aircraft as air ambulances, serving remote communities that may not have access to local airstrips. With a full-size carbon airframe and tilt rotor system already built, it appears there's still plenty of work to be done with energy storage, electronics and the like, but AMSL says it's targeting 2023 as the date by which Careflight can start using it as an emergency vehicle.

AMSL's media launch for the Vertiia
AMSL's media launch for the Vertiia

This strikes us as very optimistic; none of the highly cashed-up eVTOL companies we've spoken to in Europe or North America sound like they're particularly close to getting their aircraft certified yet. Indeed, the certification criteria themselves are still being nailed down according to Vertical Aerospace's Tim Williams – and that's in Europe, where the eVTOL sector is very active. Most companies are targeting 2024 or 2025 for the start of commercial operations, assuming they can pull together the enormous cash reserves required to get their aircraft certified. Perhaps AMSL Aero and CareFlight are looking at working under different regulations upon launch.

AMSL appears to have made impressive progress on the back of an AU$3 million (US$2.2 million) "Cooperative Research Centres Project" grant from the Australian government and a further AU$3 million investment from IP Group. Getting a full-scale prototype airframe built is no small achievement, and we look forward to speaking with the team and following its progress when flight tests begin at NSW's Narromine Airport, some five and a half hours inland from Sydney.

Check out a video below, and there are more photos in the gallery.

AMSL Aero and CareFlight

Sources: AMSL Aero, CareFlight

View gallery - 10 images
18 comments
18 comments
VincentWolf
Man they love to make these prop planes and copters as dangerous as possible. Exit the craft while spinning props is guaranteed to shred the occupants into zillions of pieces. Land anywhere near a person in an emergency landing and they become hamburger meat.
anthony88
Looks like a futuristic airborne combine harvester...
michael_dowling
The hydrogen option is the way to go. No CO2 emissions,fast refueling,and decent range. Airborne H2 is already being tested on larger business aircraft https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1LkxJcZ-mw
guzmanchinky
Vincent the great advantage to these is the nearly instantaneous shutdown, unlike a helicopter or prop plane.
This looks like a very elegant design! Hopefully we see these everywhere soon.
CAVUMark
Great solution for connecting non airport communities to an airport that can handle the King Airs. They do need more "BEWARE OF PROPELLERS" signs.... or maybe "DO NOT TRIP OVER SPINNING PROPELLERS", or maybe, "SPINNING PROPS KILL".. or something like that.
niio
Isn't that big sill on the door going to make it hard to load gurneys?
jerryd
When will they learn such props are very inefficient. A 2 blade simple counter rotating rotor of the same area on a shaft will put out 5x the lift. Something you can't give up in an EV.
It is high up so no one gets hit , dynamically stable including in crosswinds without a computer that takes up less landing space, area.
Cool thing to steer you just lean the rotor where you want to go Gyro style, no computers needed.
riczero-b
Always wondered why they don't fit LED' s on the rotor tips, would make them safer. And way cooler looking.
Mayakovski
Yet another design that will likely never make it off the ground let alone into use. Waste of money.
Johannes
Interesting concept and quite unlike others currently in development or undergoing testing (eg. eHang). @Vincent, it's a very simple task to fit an interlock between prop motion and the door locks, so that no-one leaves the craft until all props have stopped. Shouldn't take longer than a couple of seconds from landing to prop stop.
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