Aircraft

Vertical Aerospace joins the tilt-rotor race with new VA-1X eVTOL

Vertical Aerospace joins the t...
Vertical Aerospace has unveiled the design of its upcoming VA-1X tilt-rotor eVTOL air taxi
Vertical Aerospace has unveiled the design of its upcoming VA-1X tilt-rotor eVTOL air taxi
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On the VA-1X, the front rotors tilt upwards for VTOL
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On the VA-1X, the front rotors tilt upwards for VTOL
Tilt-rotor design will give the VA-1X the convenience of VTOL and the efficiency of winged flight
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Tilt-rotor design will give the VA-1X the convenience of VTOL and the efficiency of winged flight
Retractable landing gear reduces drag
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Retractable landing gear reduces drag
Minimal drag from the rear rotors in horizontal flight thanks to a folding, stacking design
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Minimal drag from the rear rotors in horizontal flight thanks to a folding, stacking design
Up to four passengers can travel facing one another
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Up to four passengers can travel facing one another
The pilot's inputs will be run through a digital fly by wire system, allowing the flight control system to handle
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The pilot's inputs will be run through a digital fly-by-wire system, allowing the flight control system to handle the complex business of transitioning between flight modes
Vertical Aerospace has unveiled the design of its upcoming VA-1X tilt-rotor eVTOL air taxi
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Vertical Aerospace has unveiled the design of its upcoming VA-1X tilt-rotor eVTOL air taxi
View gallery - 7 images

Moving on from the squat, chunky Seraph and its basic manned multirotor design, Britain's Vertical Aerospace has released designs for an upcoming five-seat tilt rotor air taxi it's calling the VA-1X that can take advantage of efficient winged flight.

The design renders show a handsome electric aircraft with a V-tail and a 15-meter-wide (49-ft) wing supporting eight rotors. The front four rotors are capable of tilting from a vertical VTOL orientation to face forward for level flight, and the rear rotors are a two-piece design that can operate as four-blade rotors when in use, but fold away into a stacked, longitudinally oriented pair to reduce drag flying on the wing.

Likewise, the landing gear retracts and tucks away neatly into the body of the aircraft to further reduce drag, and control surfaces on the wings and tail should offer a fairly standard airplane flying experience once enough forward motion is established.

Vertical Aerospace claims a cruise speed up to 150 mph (241 km/h) for the VA-1X, and its lithium-ion battery pack will enable a range up to 100 miles (161 km) between charges. With a length of 13 m (42.7 ft), it's capable of landing on regular helipads, and the company says its small rotors will make it some 30 times quieter than a helicopter.

On the VA-1X, the front rotors tilt upwards for VTOL
On the VA-1X, the front rotors tilt upwards for VTOL

The complex dance of transitioning from VTOL lift and hover to winged flight will be managed by software; the VA-1X will be entirely fly-by-wire, with the pilot's control inputs interpreted by a computer. The flight control system will be supplied by Honeywell, a company that seems to be getting fairly heavily involved in eVTOL systems as it's popping up more and more often as a partner to these air taxi startups.

Vertical Aerospace is backing away from some of its competitors' claims that air taxi travel will cost about the same per mile as a ground-based Uber ride. "Prices for air taxi services," reads a press release, "are initially expected to be between a helicopter flight and a private car, and will decrease as adoption grows."

The pilot's inputs will be run through a digital fly by wire system, allowing the flight control system to handle
The pilot's inputs will be run through a digital fly-by-wire system, allowing the flight control system to handle the complex business of transitioning between flight modes

In terms of the timeline, Vertical Aerospace says it'll begin building a prototype aircraft shortly, with flight testing slated for 2021. The company expects to have it certified "to the same safety standards as commercial airlines" by 2024 and in service shortly thereafter, and says it's "set to be the world first certified winged all-electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft."

That's an interesting claim, given that companies like Joby Aviation and Lilium are well ahead of VA's schedule with multiple prototypes up and running and plenty of test hours already complete, but anything is possible until somebody gets one across the line.

We've reached out to the VA team and hope to bring you an interview on this machine soon.

Source: Vertical Aerospace

View gallery - 7 images
8 comments
Towerman
This is the best looking fully winged version i've seen so far, instantly becoming my favorite fully "winged" Vtol... It almost have that Joby look to it when the rotors are tilted upwards. I hope Joby and Skai bring us some updates before the end of the year as they are my favorites, i would definitely want to see this design be built to commercial use.
paul314
If you can demonstrate safety, maybe this kind of vehicle is a good match for building and maintaining offshore installations such as wind and wave power. Otherwise just another billionaire toy. (Or maybe millionaires with good expense accounts.)
Username
Tilting the whole wing instead of each motor individually is much simpler and therefore cheaper and more reliable.
John Sellers
I'm sorry but I think that sizzle stick mounting of propellers and motors is intrinsically flawed and dangerous especially within the proximity of the passenger cabin. The history of such technology has not been good.

There are several other efforts that have the same flaw, and still others that are better.

But if you want to see one that has got everything right, check out lilium.com.



Actual there a lot of offerings and more than one that us better than this.
Peter S
Username: The problem with tilting the whole wing is lack of redundancy, you can't land if the tilt mechanism fails when trying to transition from horisontal to vertical flight. On the other hand, if one individual mechanism fails you can always land on the remaining rotors as long as it's an isolated failure.
JSimon
I don't see anything that is better than a helicopter. These are fantasies.
ljaques
VERY nice design. I'm with Towerman in really liking the layout. I can see these vehicles being used between small "airports" and from small to large airports, but not as a standard air taxi a la Fifth Element. I think it will enhance the amateur pilot arena much more, and that's good.
Jerome Morley Larson Sr eAIA
Be a lot easier to tilt the wings instead of the engines; one single move instead of coordinating four.