Electric air taxi prototype makes flight debut
Vertical Aerospace operating out of Bristol, UK, aims to bring on demand, emissions-free intercity air taxi services to the UK skies within four years. The company has nailed the first step in its bold plan by building and flying a fully electric vertical take off and landing aircraft recently.
Vertical Aerospace was founded by OVO Energy's Stephen Fitzpatrick in 2016, and now has a core of 28 engineers and technicians recruited from the ranks of Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Martin Jet Pack, DarkTrace and General Electric. In the last 12 months, the company has put together a slick-looking full scale eVTOL demonstrator, secured test flight permission from the Civil Aviation Authority and got it airborne above Cotswold Airport in Kimble, Gloucestershire.
"We've learned a lot from Formula 1, both in terms of technology and pace of development," said Fitzpatrick. "The lightweight materials, aerodynamics and electrical systems developed through F1 are highly applicable to aircraft, much more so than to road transport. By putting those technologies in the hands of experienced aerospace engineers, we can build cutting edge aircraft for the 21st Century."
Not too much has been revealed about the three-wheeled, battery-powered demonstrator, other than it weighs 750 kg (1,650 lb), has four three-blade rotors in a two-by-two configuration that lift it into the air and is currently reported capable of spending just 5 minutes aloft but can fly forward at up to 80 km/h (50 mph). However, the focus of rolling out the prototype was not range and speed, but to prove the full scale concept.
With the first remotely-piloted flight in the bag, the company is already working with the European Aviation Safety Agency to have its next model granted Type Certification as part of a broader plan to get air taxi pilots flying electric VTOL aircraft on short hops by 2022.
Meantime, Vertical Aerospace will continue to refine the technology to extend the range of the eVTOL, introduce autonomous aspects to the design and look to increase the services routes throughout the UK. Top speed of operational eVTOLs is expected to hover around the 200 mph (320 km/h) mark, with an initial range of between 100 and 140 miles (160 - 225 km) eventually inching up to make 500 miles per charge possible.
Of course, Vertical Aerospace is not the only company looking into the viability of short-haul air taxis, with Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and Transcend Air Corporation being among numerous firms currently looking into providing such services. So it looks like the skies in our very near future will be quite literally abuzz with activity.
The short video below has more on the eVTOL project and test flight.
Source: Vertical Aerospace