Vertical Aerospace debuts a chubby eVTOL capable of carrying 3 people
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.
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.
Source: Vertical Aerospace