Ft. Worth, Texas-based ASTRO Aerospace announced on May 8th that it had acquired Passenger Drone, which had made manned flights last year of its two-seat 16-propeller wingless eVTOL aircraft, now dubbed the AA360. [Note: the company renamed the aircraft “Elroy” in four months later.] In June, ASTRO announced that it had forged a partnership with composite manufacturer Paterson Composites: “Specializing in carbon fiber, Paterson Composites will work with ASTRO Aerospace to construct the entire airframe of the Passenger Drone including the cockpit, frame, and propeller blades.”
A³ Vahana eVTOL Tiltwing Advanced VTOL Demonstrators Accelerate Full Tilt Vertiflite, March/April 2018 Vahana, the all-electric VTOL aircraft from A³ by Airbus, made its first full-scale flight on Jan. 31, 2018, at the Pendleton UAS Range in Pendleton, Oregon. The first untethered flight of the unmanned, fully self-piloted electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) demonstrator was a 53-second hover at 16 ft (5 m). A³ completed a second flight of the first demonstrator, dubbed “Alpha One,” the following day with representatives from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). “Today we are celebrating a great accomplishment in aerospace innovation,” said Zach Lovering, Project Executive of Vahana. “In just under two years, Vahana took a concept sketch on a napkin and built a full-scale, self-piloted aircraft that has successfully completed its first flight. Our team is grateful for the support we’ve received from A³ and the extended Airbus family, as well as our partners including MTSI and the Pendleton UAS Range.” The Vahana team plans to continue development and perform further flight tests to transition and forward flight. Lovering also announced that A³ has “identified a new partner for our motors, MAGicALL. The California-based company designs and manufactures custom, cutting-edge components (motors, generators, inductors, transformers, etc.) with impressive performance on rapid and affordable delivery schedules.” Founded in May 2015, A³ (“A-cubed”) is the Silicon Valley-based advanced projects outpost of Airbus. A³ focuses on projects centered around three traits: speed, transparency and a commitment to culminating in productizable demonstrators or demonstrators at convincing scale. A³ enables access to unique talent and ideas, new partnership opportunities, and execution at speed. Vahana aims to democratize personal flight and answer the growing need for urban mobility by leveraging the latest technologies in electric propulsion, energy storage and machine vision. It has tilting fore and aft wings, each with four electrically-driven three-bladed propellers.
First unmanned flight of the Airbus A³ Vahana at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport, Pendleton, Oregon, USA.
Vahana A³ by Airbus San Jose, California, USA www.vahana.aero The Airbus A³ Vahana (pronounced “A-cubed”) is a full-scale prototype self-piloting electric 8-prop tilt wing vehicle. It is intended to fly a single passenger or cargo along a predetermined flight path. As of Feb. 2019, the program had flown more than 50 hours with the first unmanned demonstrator, Alpha One, and rolled out the second, dubbed Alpha Two. The vehicle uses eight 60 hp (45 kW) motors situated on forward and rear tilt-wings. Approximately one-third of its mass is its batteries (600 lb / 272 kg). Its sensor suite employs cameras as well as active Lidar and Radar. It has a crash rated seat and a ballistic parachute intended to work even at a low altitude. The A³ Vahana’s goal is to be utilized specifically as a single (eventually double) seated air taxi for urban mobility. Flying autonomously, it will follow only predetermined flight paths making minor deviations should obstacle avoidance be necessary. A³ Vahana’s first test flight occurred Jan. 31, 2018, at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport. The full sized “Alpha One” prototype flew autonomously to a height of 5 m (16 ft) for 53 seconds. On Feb. 22, 2019, Airbus announced, “To date we’ve flown 50 full-scale test flights totaling over 5 flight hours (our subscale model has flown 1,277 test flights and over 51 flight hours!). More flights are planned through at least the first half of this year as the team studies and checks flight controls, navigation, failure detection and mitigation as well as noise during flight.” The post also noted that the Alpha One could conduct “flight times in excess of seven minutes and speeds in excess of 50 kts” (92.6 km/h). Project Vahana began as one of the first projects of the Advanced Projects and Partnerships Outpost of the Airbus Group in California’s Silicon Valley. The group is intended to operate with strong innovative concepts and more aggressive timescales than traditional industry. When the program was unveiled, Airbus said it planned to have a demonstrator by 2020 that can be put into production and capable of delivering more than 1 billion flight hours every year. A³ Vahana Characteristics (updated May 2018) Alpha Beta Passenger capacity 1 (unmanned) 2 Fuselage length 18.75 ft 5.7 m 19.5 ft 5.86 m Overall height 9.275 ft 2.81 m 9.275 ft 2.81 m Wingspan 20.6 ft 6.25 m 20.6 ft 6.25 m …
First unmanned flight of the Astro AA360 near Sofia, Bulgaria.
The AutoFlightX V600 full-sized prototype was unveiled at the aviation trade show, Aero Friedrichshafen 2019 in Germany on April 10, 2019. The V600 prototype is an all electric, two-place aircraft with six propellers for lift fitted on two booms parallel to the fuselage and a pusher propeller in the rear for forward flight. The design uses propellers underneath, at each end of the two booms, as well as propellers above, at the center of each boom, for a total of six lifting propellers. AutoFlightX, founded in February 2018, is dedicated to the development, production, sales and operation of eVTOL aircraft. The company uses the aviation network of the Munich Metropolitan Region as well as the Technical University of Munich. The V600 is based on the earlier BAT600. The company expects their eVTOL aircraft can be used as autonomous air taxis, regular piloted sports aircraft and as unmanned autonomous cargo drones. The company has recently stated they hope to have a flying prototype in 2019. VFS correspondent Ian Frain took these photos at AERO Friedrichshafen at the unveiling. Additional photos from AERO Friedrichshafen can be found on the VFS Facebook page in three photo albums: April 10. April 11 and April 14.
Airbus Reveals UTM Blueprint and UAM Perceptions How the Airbus UTM plans to integrate the future of our aerial mobility safely and how perceptions are shaping up for acceptance. By Nicolas Zart Vertiflite Mar/Apr 2019 What will urban air mobility (UAM) look like in the near future? How will electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft share airspace with helicopters, traditional airplanes, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and other unknown proposed aircraft such as personal air vehicles and personal flying devices? These are some of the questions that Airbus’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Blueprint tries to answer. Safe Shared Urban Air Mobility In 2017, there were more than 3.5 billion passengers who traveled by air, a tenfold increase in 30 years, according to the World Bank’s database of “Air Transport, Passengers Carried.” That number is only going to increase. And, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its 2017 report, “2036 Forecast Reveals Air Passengers Will Nearly Double,” there will be 7.8 billion air passengers per year in another 20 years. Consider that today at any given time there are over a million people airborne and you can see how the world’s airspace management needs to become highly flexible and even safer than it already is. To say that air travel is changing faster than ever before is an understatement. The eVTOL industry is taking off faster than the road-going electric vehicle revolution did a decade ago. The VFS website www.eVTOL.news lists nearly 150 different electric air mobility projects, including at press time: 55 vectored thrust aircraft, 17 lift-plus-cruise platforms, 34 wingless multicopters, 30 hover bikes and personal aerial devices (not including two dozen additional GoFly Phase 2 competitors who have not been announced), and seven electric rotorcraft. And the race is not slowing down. Advancing aviation technology; autonomy; shrinking batteries, motors and prices; and many other breakthroughs make it possible to conceive of new types of aircraft that break with tradition. Futurists expect that manned and unmanned aircraft will become much cheaper to own and operate — and perhaps become so ubiquitous that they could “darken the skies.” All of these new aircraft must cooperate in the air. This means better ways of coordinating personal mobility with those of businesses, emergency and government use. How could deconfliction of all these aircraft be handled? Blueprint Brings Flexibility In September, A³, the advanced projects outpost of Airbus in Silicon Valley, …
A³ by Airbus has continued development of its single-seat Vahana eVTOL demonstrator since its first flight on Jan. 31, 2018. In December, Airbus released new images of the Vahana demonstrator in flight at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton, Oregon. Notably, Airbus has replaced the electric motors with more powerful ones, as well as added propeller spinners, additional nose sensors and landing skid fairings. The second Vahana test aircraft is also now essentially complete.
Listed below are 50+ Vertical Flight Society (VFS) corporate members which work in all aspects of eVTOL aircraft development (aircraft, software, engines, simulations, universities, etc.). Our corporate members have an unprecedented opportunity to network and engage with all levels of the rotorcraft technical community, including industry, academia and government. More than 100 VTOL companies and organizations have joined the Vertical Flight Society (VFS). Please go to www.vtol.org/corporate to be part of the world’s largest organization supporting vertical flight technology. Aircraft Developers A³ by Airbus 225 W Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113 www.vahana.aero Aircraft: Vahana Airbus Helicopters F-13725 Marignane Cedex, Aéroport International Marseille-Provence, France www.airbus.com Aircraft: Airbus CityAirbus, Pop.Up Next Airspace Experience Technologies, LLC 11499 Conner Street, Detroit, Michigan 48213 USA www.asx.us Aircraft: AirspaceX MOBi Aurora Flight Sciences 9950 Wakeman Drive, Manassas, Virginia 20110 USA www.aurora.aero Aircraft: Aurora eVTOL AutoflightX GmbH Friedrichshafener Str. 1, Gilching 82205 Germany www.autoflightx.com Aircraft: AutoFlightX BAT600 Bartini, Inc. 19421 Phil Lane, Cupertino, California 95014 USA www.bartini.aero Aircraft: Bartini Flying Car Bell 3255 Bell Flight Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76118 USA www.bellflight.com Aircraft: Bell Nexus Boeing Company 100 North Riverside, Chicago, Illinois, 60606 USA www.boeing.com Aircraft: Boeing Cargo Aerial Vehicle Carter Aviation Technologies, LLC 2730 Commerce Street, Suite 600, Wichita Falls, Texas 76301 USA www.cartercopters.com Aircraft: Carter Aviation Air Taxi Kitty Hawk Corporation 2700 Broderick Way, Mountain View, California 94043 USA www.kittyhawk.aero Aircraft: Kitty Hawk Cora, Kitty Hawk Flyer Jaunt Air Mobility, LLC www.jauntairmobility.com Aircraft: Jaunt Joby Aviation 340 Woodpecker Ridge, Santa Cruz, California 95060 USA www.jobyaviation.com Aircraft: Joby S4 Karem Aircraft, Inc. 1 Capital Drive, Lake Forest, California 92630 USA www.karemaircraft.com Aircraft: Karem Butterfly Leonardo Helicopters 3050 Red Lion Road, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19114 USA www.leonardocompany.com Aircraft: AgustaWestland Project Zero (defunct) * Formerly AgustaWestland. Lilium GmbH Gilching, Bavaria 82205 Germany www.lilium.com Aircraft: Lilium Jet Neoptera Aero Ltd 24 Rock Lane, Stoke Gifford, Bristol BS348PF United Kingdom neoptera.aero Aircraft: Neoptera eOpter NFT Inc. 4653 Table Mountain Drive, Golden, Colorado 80403 USA www.nftinc.com Aircraft: NFT eVTOL Piasecki Aircraft Corporation Second Street West, PO Box 360, Essington, Pennsylvania 19029-0360 USA www.piasecki.com Aircraft: Piasecki eVTOL Pipistrel Vertical Solutions d.o.o. Vipavska cesta 2, Ajdovscina 5270 Slovenia www.pipistrel.si Aircraft: Pipistrel Sabrewing Aircraft Company, Inc. 275 Durley Avenue, Unit H-3, Hangar 2, Camarillo Airport, Camarillo, California 93010 USA www.sabrewingaircraft.com Aircraft: Sabrewing Draco-2 UAS Sikorsky, A Lockheed Martin Company 6900 Main Street, Stratford, Connecticut 06601 USA www.lockheedmartin.com Aircraft: Sikorsky VERT Skyworks Global 9980 South 300 …
The earliest electric VTOL aircraft were initially flown by the inventors themselves. Here is a list of the earliest known successful manned eVTOL liftoffs and their pilots. First Flights of eVTOL Aircraft Aug. 4, 2011 Pascal Chretien Solution F Helicopter Venelles, France n/a Oct. 5, 2011 Marcus Leng SkyKar (Opener BlackFly) Rebel Warkworth, Canada C-IJQV Oct. 21, 2011 Thomas Senkel Volocopter VC1 Karlsruhe, Germany n/a March 19, 2018 Marcus Leng Opener BlackFly v2 Palo Alto, California, USA C-IKLT or C-IKLY Feb. 17, 2016 Philippe Antoine Aquinea Volta Castelnaudary, France F-WALG March 30, 2016 Alex Zosel Volocopter VC200 Karlsruhe, Germany D-MYVC Sept. 13, 2016 Ric Webb Tier 1 Electric Robinson R44 Los Alamitos, California, USA N3115T Early 2017 unknown Joby S4 Santa Cruz, California, USA N541JA 2017 Dr. Todd Reichert Kitty Hawk Flyer (prototype) unk, California, USA n/a Aug. 1, 2017 Bill Shoemaker Zee Aero Z-P2 Hollister, California, USA N102XZ Sept. 16, 2017 Boyan Zhelev Astro PassengerDrone (AA360) near Sofia, Bulgaria n/a Early 2018 unknown Kitty Hawk Flyer (production) unk, California, USA n/a Feb. 5, 2018 (1st public manned flight) unknown EHang 184 Guangzhou City, China n/a April 30, 2018 John Graber Workhorse SureFly Cincinnati, Ohio, USA N834LW 2018 unknown EHang 216 Guangzhou City, China n/a June 22, 2018 Kyle Clark Beta Technologies Ava XC Plattsburgh, NY, USA N802UT Nov. 1, 2018 Matt Chasen LIFT Aircraft Hexa Austin, Texas, USA? n/a red text indicates unknown or unconfirmed data Additional flights with pilots/passengers (not first flights) 2018 6 more pilots Opener BlackFly v2 Palo Alto, California, USA C-IKLT or C-IKLY Dec. 3, 2017 Brian Krzanich (Intel) Volocopter VC200 near Munich, Germany D-MYVC Late 2018 Justin Paines Joby S4 unk, California, USA N541JA 2017-2018 additional pilots Kitty Hawk Flyer (prototype) San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA n/a 2018-present Many Kitty Hawk Flyer (production) various n/a 2016-present Many EHang 184 various n/a 2018-present Many EHang 216 various n/a