Aircraft

Vertical Aerospace goes public, boasting record eVTOL pre-sales

Vertical Aerospace goes public...
The UK's Vertical Aerospace is going public via a SPAC deal, announcing the largest pre-order numbers of any eVTOL company to date
The UK's Vertical Aerospace is going public via a SPAC deal, announcing the largest pre-order numbers of any eVTOL company to date
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The UK's Vertical Aerospace is going public via a SPAC deal, announcing the largest pre-order numbers of any eVTOL company to date
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The UK's Vertical Aerospace is going public via a SPAC deal, announcing the largest pre-order numbers of any eVTOL company to date
The VA-X4 is an 8-rotor semi-vectored thrust eVTOL aircraft
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The VA-X4 is an 8-rotor semi-vectored thrust eVTOL aircraft
Virgin Atlantic has committed to buying between 50-150 of these aircraft
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Virgin Atlantic has committed to buying between 50-150 of these aircraft
202-mph top speed and 100-odd-mile range put the VA-X4 right in the ballpark
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202-mph top speed and 100-odd-mile range put the VA-X4 right in the ballpark
The VA-X4 will carry one pilot and 4 passengers
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The VA-X4 will carry one pilot and 4 passengers
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UK company Vertical Aerospace (VA) is going public through a SPAC, with backing from Microsoft, American Airlines, Avolon, Honeywell and Rolls-Royce and a bulging US$4 billion-dollar preorder book for as many as 1,000 of its VA-X4 eVTOL air taxis.

The SPAC deal is a merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp, and it'll put VA on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker EVTL sometime later this year – making it one of a growing number of eVTOL industry players putting their hats out for investment money from the great unwashed masses as they stare down the barrel of the massively expensive challenges of certifying these next-gen aircraft and tooling up for production at volumes that are more or less unheard of in the aerospace industry.

VA is hitting the market with the biggest pre-sales numbers we've seen in the emerging eVTOL space. Assuming it hits its milestones, it's got pre-orders for 250 VA-X4s from American Airlines, 310 from Avolon, and somewhere between 50-150 from Virgin Atlantic. There are options on the American and Avolon deals for 100 and 190 extra aircraft respectively, so all up, it's already sold somewhere between 610 and 1,000 aircraft.

The VA-X4 is a reasonably standard eVTOL design, not dissimilar to the Archer Maker aircraft launched recently in that it's a fixed-wing, V-tailed plane seating one pilot and four passengers, with a bank of vertical lift props along the back of the wing and a bank of tilting props along the front. But where the Maker uses 12 smaller rotors, the VA-X4 uses eight larger ones, and where Archer's rear props are simple two-blade designs, VA has a four-blade design that will scissor together and sandwich back into a two-blade configuration in horizontal flight to keep drag down while adding some extra lift.

The VA-X4 will carry one pilot and 4 passengers
The VA-X4 will carry one pilot and 4 passengers

It'll fly around 100 miles (160 km) on a charge, at top cruise speeds up to 202 mph (325 km/h), figures that are right in the middle of the road in this space. It's also claiming to be 100 times quieter and 100 times safer than a helicopter at one fifth the cost and vastly lower maintenance, again reasonably standard claims in the eVTOL business that should be achievable.

VA has put a number of key partnerships in place to help it deliver the aircraft, as well as to share the dizzying costs of certification. Honeywell will be handling flight control systems, the electric powertrain is being developed by Rolls-Royce, Solvay is handling composite materials for the lightweight airframe and GKN is responsible for the electrical harness. Microsoft is also on board, working on fleet management software. That represents a lot of people pulling in the same direction, and it gives VA a good chance of achieving its objectives.

Virgin Atlantic has committed to buying between 50-150 of these aircraft
Virgin Atlantic has committed to buying between 50-150 of these aircraft

The SPAC deal is expected to bring in about $344 million if all goes well, putting around 14 percent of the company in public hands, and the current figures imply a total company valuation around $1.8 billion.

VA says it's in the process of building its VA-X4 prototype, with a first flight expected later in 2021. The company hopes to achieve type certification with EASA by 2024, and has been working closely with the regulators there for some years now. It aims to build 50 aircraft in 2024, 250 in 2025, 1,000 in 2026 and to break 2,000 units a year by 2028.

Exactly how much cash the company's got in the bank to build and test prototypes, certify the aircraft and put an aviation-grade mass production line in place is a bit fuzzy at this point; certainly, the fundraising doesn't end with the SPAC for these next-gen air taxi companies and there's still a long climb to the point where they'll start transforming our urban centers with cheap, quiet vertical commuting options.

Check out our 2020 interview with Vertical Aerospace Chief Engineer Tim Williams, or enjoy a short video below.

Vertical Aerospace set to revolutionise air travel: more from CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick

Source: Vertical Aerospace

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12 comments
12 comments
dan
it is a bit fuzzy... that's the point: selling options (with the right of cancelling the purchase options) is not selling and delivering aircrafts that fulfil the promised specs... At the moment these companies put a great effort in PR, hoping to improve battery technology, certification issues and safety problems.
Aermaco
Yes fuzzy is what it takes to sell well even as it is fairly good looking. It is the claims like "100 times safer" that are flat out over the top absurd. Why is battery power even one time safer when dying ten times quicker than fuel? And also how many props can stop working in VTOL before it becomes a very fast drop descent where the height writes the autopsy.

A standard aircraft only has its take-off time of a few minutes in maximum danger having scant places to land and with less than optimum glide speed in a thrust failure. The VTOL benefit may over rule the added danger in market demand, but claiming 100 times safer is very bogus.
Nelson Hyde Chick
Another toy for the wealthy as the rest of life is left to die.
dan
@ Nelson: You sadly got the point. eVTOLs could only become toys for the wealthy. the rest will not benefit. we shall develop affordable, simple and safe technology for the many of us: it makes more sense, using a proven technology and make it greener, than spending hundreds of millions in toys... As an example: the Solarimpuls project cost ca.120 million for one flight around the world. and a big team traveled many times by plane around the globe giving the necessary support and maintenance. it was a great technical achievement, with excellent PR and media coverage, but had nothing to do with ecology. Planting trees for just one million would have done much more for our planet... I love R&D in aerospace, but we need to be clear and distinguish what we do for the planet and what we do for our ego/business. We are lucky, if we can combine it.
AngryPenguin
@Nelson Hyde Chick - You seem to have the same thing to say about every article you read.
SoundRacer
It is hard to understand such a great interest for such a short distance flight. Only up to160 km heliport to heliport for 4 passengers and probably quite costly should be compared to door-to-door, economic, safe shared rides for 6 passengers in an electric Robotaxi like CabiBUS. I think that the range should be at least 250-300 km for a wide acceptance and that may be possible in not too distant future.
dan
@ CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick: very convincing what you said in the video: But to believe you and the eVTOL-indutstry: How much energy does your concept use (in kW for vertical flight phase and so in cruise mode), then what "battery" can deliver that and what is left for the payload etc.??? I could tell you that "my invention can fly around the world twice without refuelling", but if I do not publish and guarantee any numbers, you are right not to believe my fantasies. You would not waste your money, right?
Towerman
@Aermaco
Not it's not absurd, have you ever seen a plane crashlanding and spontaniously combust turning it's
occupants instantly into a crisp ? I have and so have millions of others ;)
Fueled aircraft are not only dangerous, they are merely a coffin with wings waiting for something to go wrong, which often does,
the list of FAA links i can post here of horrific accidents are endless.

Stop for a moment and use your head, a pilot who is dumb enough to fly an electric craft until the battery is fully depleted, does not deserve the title of a being a paddle boat pilot let alone being an aircraft pilot !
The EVTOL will land long before it's power is depleted ;)

Props don't stop on EVTOL's they are electric i suggest taking an engineering course in electrical motors.
However i can give you endless of instances where various ICE powered planes dropped like stones where the height did write the autopsy.

So it is safer period, if you compare the mechanical wear of an ICE engine vs AN Electric motor over time the electrical motor WILL absolutely always win !

@NelsonHyde
Another thoughtless comment where you still don't even realize EVTOLS is 20 time cheaper than an inexpensive helicopter. There are plenty of helicopters/planes out there, and ONLY the rich can afford them.

@ dan
You sadly seem to be just as misguided as Nelson, if you cannot even do a search on the cost of a helicopter and it's expenses it clearly shows your lack of knowledge on anything aviastion related.

@AngryPenguin
I've seen the same drivel posted on climate change threads Nelson possibly dan as well shows individuals usually connected to far right politics, not caring about any technological advancements.
Arcticshade
It is absolutely not hard to understand at all that 160km is enough as this is exactly the type of flying needed in congested cities and in and around major city travel thus far only affordable for the elite with helicopters.

EVTOL's is an absolutely unstoppable revolution to come.
michael_dowling
There are more eVTOL projects than you can shake a stick at. Most have a "death zone" within 150' of the ground if power fails,too low for a ballistic recovery parachute to be effective. At least one startup has a better way,the Jaunt Rosa gyrodyne,which is in auto rotation throughout flight. Also,autogyros already have an FAA approved type classification,unlike the other eVTOL types: https://newatlas.com/aircraft/jaunt-air-mobility-evtol-gyrodyne-air-taxi/