Aircraft

Bellwether releases profoundly uninspiring eVTOL test-flight footage

Bellwether releases profoundly...
Bellwether's half-scale eVTOL prototype takes flight
Bellwether's half-scale eVTOL prototype takes flight
View 5 Images
Bellwether's half-scale eVTOL prototype takes flight
1/5
Bellwether's half-scale eVTOL prototype takes flight
The video shows essentially a drone with a bodykit
2/5
The video shows essentially a drone with a bodykit
The Volar is targeted at urban use for private owners
3/5
The Volar is targeted at urban use for private owners
A stunningly-designed flying supercar for a sophisticated and genteel utopian future
4/5
A stunningly-designed flying supercar for a sophisticated and genteel utopian future
The half-scale Volar Antelope prototype was shown off at this year's Dubai Air Show
5/5
The half-scale Volar Antelope prototype was shown off at this year's Dubai Air Show
View gallery - 5 images

Bellwether has begun flight-testing its stunning Volar eVTOL flying supercar design at half scale, but the video appears to confirm our fears: all style with little substance, it appears to be a wobbly quadcopter drone with a flashy bodykit.

There's nothing inherently bad about looking super sexy – I do it myself on a regular basis, if my clearly deranged wife can be treated as a credible source. In the aviation world, however, there truly needs to be more to life than being really, really really, ridiculously goodlooking.

But eVTOL doesn't really feel like aviation yet. In these heady times at the peak of inflated expectations, the market brims with starry-eyed startups dreaming of Elysian futures. With commercial certification still years away for even the most grounded of air taxi companies (in the West, anyway), and investors caught up in a frothy lather of hype, people are still managing to raise money on the back of a few sweet renders and some media coverage.

We can't wash our hands of this; we're sometimes part of the problem. Great pictures sell stories, especially in times like these when people are desperate for reasons to be hopeful about the future, and we chose to write about the Bellwether Volar one slow-news day in December because of its spectacular images, no matter how bankrupt the design appeared in terms of engineering innovation and real-world practicality.

A stunningly-designed flying supercar for a sophisticated and genteel utopian future
A stunningly-designed flying supercar for a sophisticated and genteel utopian future

Untethered flight footage released last week appears to confirm that this machine, for all its spectacular bodywork, is simply a multicopter with concealed fans. Not even a particularly stable one, from the looks of things; the half-scale prototype lifts off with a series of lurches that would see passengers start launching their lunches.

This can probably be fixed easily; multicopters are a long-solved problem, so unless that bodywork severely restricts airflow, a few settings tweaks will set it right in no time. What can't be fixed, unless we're missing something pretty significant, is the fact that this thing is just a multicopter, tarted up in carbon fairings that look like they're designed for high-speed horizontal flight. Never mind the fact that it doesn't seem to have any horizontal propulsion systems.

Electric VTOLs are all struggling against the fundamental problem of energy storage, and despite the battalions of scientists working to bring forth next-gen battery technology, it looks like these new aircraft will continue to be severely range-restricted into the medium-term future. So they need to be efficient, and there's no energy margin to waste on cosmetics if you want to fly any kind of useful distance.

The video shows essentially a drone with a bodykit
The video shows essentially a drone with a bodykit

At some point soon, many dreamy eVTOL ships will find themselves washed up on the shores of Aviation Island. It's a brutally inhospitable environment, where things have to do their job exceptionally well with near-faultless reliability just to survive. We suspect its ragged coast will be littered with sick-looking bodywork.

If Bellwether manages to pull together the funding to take this project to production, the Volar looks to have strong potential as a movie prop. It'd launch a thousand selfies at the Petersen, or see many chins scratched in private collections. The 2030 equivalent of Supercar Blondie would spout effusive, anodyne niceties about it in a video after wobbling it around a manicured paddock at walking pace and shoulder height.

That may well be justification enough for the slapping down of a few multi-million dollar checks. If so, good luck to all parties – but Bellwether will need to prove the Volar's beauty is more than skin deep before it'll impress the aviation world.

Enjoy the video below.

Bellwether eVTOL | Free Flight with volar

Source: Bellwether Industries

View gallery - 5 images
17 comments
17 comments
Chris__
Initial gut reaction confirmed! What a shame!
dan
dji quadcopters fly more stable...
dan
you may invest in...
1. general understanding: big rotors/prop = efficiency
2. scaling up is impossible: 2xdimension = 8xmass = 8x trust
3. rethink concept and flight control...
4. at last, build a fancy (and expensive) carbon design
5. good luck
Jim B
This really does look awful. It's a pretty funny video though given how bad it looks. Also I don't see what the point of sticking a plastic body kit on a standard quadcopter is, aside from trying to create a slick marketing video to suck in investors (which they failed at). This demonstrator does not have any of the critical systems needed to power and human sized quadcopter. No large electrical engines, no large battery or fuel cell, no avionic systems, no flight controls etc.
Geospace
This is obviously fake video, some bits have a shadow on the ground most do not and the wobble is clearly because it is actually suspended from a crane wire at its center
In the take-off and landing what appears to be grass surface suddenly blows up a lot of dust from nowhere, obviously applied afterwards to make it appear that there are actually motors running, which there are obviously not.
sally
Well if they concentrate on perfecting this base system and producing props for scifi/fantasy movies and series they could well have a positive future because somebody is a seriously talented 3D designer. I agree however in the real world it’s difficult to see how something usually designed to travel at high speed with all the limits that puts on the practical aspects will ever in any reasonable future actually be practical especially in competition with projects that don’t take that style over substance initiative as a starting point. Be nice if they could prove us all wrong but the laws of physics tend to be difficult to bend in that regard.
Edward Vix
Geospace, excellent observations, especially the lack of shadows in some segments.
Aermaco
This folly is suffering a major lack of aeronautical engineering logic. This Volar has a wider body and is thus worse than those seriously dumb airspeeders that try to "race" while forcing negative body lift downward as props fight upward draining batteries faster. This of course is due to no forward thrust but for the props small horizontal vector by tipping forward as the much larger thrust vector is fighting the wide body's force downward.
https://newatlas.com/aircraft/airspeeder-worlds-first-evtol-drag-race/
Gabor Pauler
Everyone has the right to invent as stupid thing as he/she just can. But even a popular sci-tech website should have at least some kind of a filter...
jeronimo
This is deceptive marketing at its extreme. Yes, the introduction of dust and lack of shadows is digital trickery, and yes it looks like it is flying from a tether, because the motion is so unnatural for a thing this size in free flight.

But did you hear the high pitched squeal from those tiny rotors. To generate thrust from small diameter rotors you need RPM, and lots of it, just like a jet engine. It will never be allowed to fly anywhere other than Dubai. This thing will be just like the Martin Jetpack. A big deep hole into which money is poured.

Load More