Zeva presents the first flight video of its full-size eVTOL UFO
Zeva's tail-sitting one-person eVTOL flying saucer proposes to fling its pilot head-first through the sky at high speed, encased in a stamped-composite disc body that doubles as a lift-generating wing. It's far and away one of the strangest air taxi concepts we've seen, demanding some pretty extreme cojones of its occupants, but as we learned when we spoke to the company a couple of months ago, its unique form factor confers some interesting advantages that could overcome its obvious discomforts and make it a genuine contender in certain niches.
For starters, it's tiny in comparison to other air taxis, taking up little more room in a garage than a large motorcycle. That means it'll also land on a far smaller pad, so it could offer extra flexibility where space is tight. Secondly, its super-simple design, without tilting propulsion or separate lift/cruise systems, can achieve fast, agile, efficient flight – both in hover and cruise modes – in an extremely cheap and easily manufactured package.
The vast majority of commuting, reasons Zeva, is done solo, so why waste space, drag and weight adding empty seats? With a 160-mph (257-km/h) top speed and range up to 50 miles (80 km), this could prove a horizon-broadening device for developing countries – particularly ones with lots of islands. And of all the eVTOLs we've seen thus far, this one's got to rank first among adrenaline junkies for the sheer Superman factor and face-down views.
When we spoke to CEO Stephen Tibbits back in November, Zeva was preparing to begin untethered test flights of its full-scale Zero prototype. Now, the company has released video of its first untethered tests.
This is not particularly exciting video; the Zero takes off, demonstrates a stable hover, and performs a few very basic maneuvers before touching back down. It's not manned, and the team doesn't attempt the transition to horizontal flight, although you can see the latter in this 1:6 scale prototype test flight filmed in 2019, which gives you a sense of just how quick and nutty the Zero will be to ride in.
The Zeva team appears to have dismembered a supermarket trolley and a wheelbarrow or two to build this prototype's makeshift landing gear, which holds it upright on the ground but is unlikely to win any beauty contests. Function over form, then, and in this way Zeva's video serves as a good counterpoint to another piece of eVTOL test footage we've just covered. Both are at an early stage, and neither demonstrates much more than takeoff, hover, and basic multicopter-style flight maneuvers.
But where Bellwether has pushed all its chips in on looks, running what appears to be a straight quadcopter design under an ultra-futuristic carbon bodykit, Zeva is at least working to bring some interesting and unique flight dynamics to the segment. There's actually some ambitious ideas here. If you notice a teensy difference in tone between these two pieces, that'll be why.
"ZEVA will continue hover flight tests," reads a press release, "and advance to transition flight testing this spring to fine-tune the unique Superman-like trajectory of the aircraft design. The patent-pending design is expected to be available for pre-order for consumers for a US$5,000 deposit as early as spring of this year, with an eventual price tag for the first production units estimated at under $250,000."
We look forward to seeing the full-size Zero switching to cruise flight and putting on some serious speed. We can hardly wait to see the first high-speed flights with a human on board – which Tibbits has told us may not be that far away. This thing could end up being absolutely nuts.
Check out the video below.
Source: Zeva Aero