Aircraft

Vertical Aerospace debuts a chubby eVTOL capable of carrying 3 people

Vertical Aerospace debuts a ch...
The Seraph prototype is Britain's leading air taxi contender
The Seraph prototype is Britain's leading air taxi contender
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Coaxially mounted props equalize the torque reaction at each arm
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Coaxially mounted props equalize the torque reaction at each arm
Backside of the Seraph
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Backside of the Seraph
Capable of lifting up to 250 kg, the Seraph is a prototype of a manned eVTOL that's expected to fly next year
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Capable of lifting up to 250 kg, the Seraph is a prototype of a manned eVTOL that's expected to fly next year
Vertical Aerospace hasn't released information on the Seraph's range or endurance yet
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Vertical Aerospace hasn't released information on the Seraph's range or endurance yet
With 12 propos in total, motor redundancy is excellent
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With 12 propos in total, motor redundancy is excellent
The Seraph prototype is Britain's leading air taxi contender
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The Seraph prototype is Britain's leading air taxi contender
A 250 kg payload represents a pilot and two (svelte) passengers
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A 250 kg payload represents a pilot and two (svelte) passengers
The Seraph is capable of 80 km/h flight
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The Seraph is capable of 80 km/h flight
The Seraph: airborne in testing
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The Seraph: airborne in testing

With the ability to carry up to 250 kg (551 lb) of payload at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 mph), the 12-rotor Seraph is Britain's leading electric VTOL air taxi candidate. Vertical Aerospace has released video of this chunky bird in flight.

The Seraph has 12 rotors, mounted coaxially on six arms. It appears to carry its battery in the roof, allowing air wash from the side propeller tips to cool the battery and electronics. Watching its beefy carbon composite body in flight, it's hard not to compare it to a bumblebee. Neither look like they have any business being in the air, and yet both appear to do the job just fine.

Vertical Aerospace, based in Bristol, says the Seraph's carrying capacity of 250 kg represents the capability to carry up to three people – although it won't be doing so. Instead, the company, which now employs 70 people, is in the process of building and certifying a different, passenger-focused aircraft it hopes to fly in 2020.

So the Seraph is relegated to testing and potential heavy-lift cargo duties. It's somewhat modular, with the ability to be converted to use skids, wheels or floats for water landings. It can also be built larger or smaller depending on the demands of the operation.

Capable of lifting up to 250 kg, the Seraph is a prototype of a manned eVTOL that's expected to fly next year
Capable of lifting up to 250 kg, the Seraph is a prototype of a manned eVTOL that's expected to fly next year

While it's good to see things like this in the air, and getting this kind of airframe built is no small achievement, there doesn't seem to be anything particularly revolutionary about the Seraph's design; it's a big, battery-powered drone, and thus, it'll probably have a very limited flight capability somewhere around the 20-minute mark simply due to the energy density of current lithium batteries, which aren't good enough for commercial air taxi operations yet.

While many operations seem happy to wait until battery technology improves to the point that electric VTOL aviation becomes viable, there does appear to be another option: hydrogen. Hydrogen hasn't taken over in the automotive world due to storage and distribution challenges, and it's far less efficient with energy than a battery, but its energy density is excellent, and American company Skai has come out claiming that its fuel cell-powered hexacopter VTOL can get monster 400-plus mile ranges – enough to make air taxis a realistic commercial possibility – using today's technology, provided it has hydrogen production or storage facilities at its main base airport.

Check out the Seraph in flight below.

Vertical Aerospace | Seraph | Flight 2019

Source: Vertical Aerospace

12 comments
martinwinlow
"... very limited flight capability somewhere around the 20-minute mark..." AT 80kph, any city in the world could be 100% serviced by exiting 20 minute range electric VTOL machines.
martinwinlow
Wy, oh why, oh why... put the batteries in the *roof*???!!!
George Kafantaris
“[T]here does appear to be another option: hydrogen. Hydrogen hasn't taken over in the automotive world due to storage and distribution challenges ... but its energy density is excellent ... enough to make air taxis a realistic commercial possibility -- using today's technology.” You bet.
paul314
That would be three people if one of them is a child. Otherwise they would have to be model-thin and not carrying luggage.
Towerman
why do they showcase this if it will not be built, disappointing...anyway i like the skai more, it's still my favourite... i just wish they can give us a demo flight it's obvious that the design is sound, we need to see it fly ! Nothing not a peep since the New Atlas article... :( Hydrogen fc's is one way forward, batteries will catch up, the question is just, which will mature first. @editor, bring back the latest volo review on the front page list !
Mzungu_Mkubwa
If by "modular" they meant that the top chassis(rotors/battery/flight control systems) separated from the "pod" below, this could be a very interesting design. If the top chassis could fly independently, it could land the pod, separate, and fly to its own servicing/charging station away from the pod's contents, e.g. passengers, or even on to the next pod/load to be flown, were the battery pack swappable as well. This would facilitate a lot of flexibility in making this a public-transport system, allowing a continuous flow of use.
michael_dowling
paul314 : 250 kg is 551 pounds,so yes, it could lift two average American people.
michael_dowling
George Kafantaris: Agreed. Elon Musk calls FCEVs bullshit. However, H2 fuelled fuel cells could indeed make these air taxis useful. https://www.zdnet.com/article/hydrogen-powered-air-taxi-yup-its-real/
Towerman
Lol @michael_dowling ""paul314 : 250 kg is 551 pounds,so yes, it could lift two average American people."" indeed 80kgs + is the average for the rest, so 3 people it is.
Towerman
If Elon calls BS on FC, then he'd better put his money where his mouth is and show us his prototype giga factory battery that will give us 400 miles on a charge, for manned drones, if not let him build us a FC. Either way he's got the $$$ so put up because you can ??, or shut up.