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Passenger Drone Now ASTRO AA360

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

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.  

A³ Vahana

A³ Vahana A³ by Airbus San Jose, California, USA 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. It completed its first test flight in January 2018. The vehicle uses eight 60 hp 45 kW motors situated on forward and rear tilt-wings. Approximately 1/3rd of its mass are its batteries (≈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 January 31, 2018 at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport. The full sized “Alpha One” prototype flew autonomously to a height of five meters for 53 seconds. 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. Airbus plans 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 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 Tip-to-tip distance 18.75 ft 5.7 m 18.75 ft 5.7 m Empty weight 1,050 lb 475 kg 1,050 lb 475 kg Max gross takeoff wt 1,800 lb 815 kg 1,800 lb 815 kg Useful load 200 lb 90 kg 450 lb 200 kg Range, with reserves 30 mi 60 km 60 mi 100 km Altitude 5,000 ft (at 95 °F) 1,524 m (at 35 °C) 10,000 ft (at 95 °F) 3,048 m (at 35 °C) Cruise speed 110 kt 200 km/h 125 kt 230 km/h Propulsors 8 propellers 8 propellers Motor output 8 x 60 hp 8 x 45 kW 8 x 60 hp 8 x 45 kW Power type electric/batteries electric/batteries First Flight 2018 2018 Resources Search eVTOL news posts Airbus website Rethinking Urban Air Mobility, June 2017 Article: Before They Take Off Flying Cars Must Defeat Bureaucracy, Wired, February 15, 2018 Article: Airbus Vahana eVTOL Aircraft Completes First Full-Scale Test Flight, DefPost, February 3, 2018 Article: First flight of the A³ Vahana eVTOL tiltwing, Vertipedia, January 2018 Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March/April 2017 Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, January/February 2017 Video: Vahana – Passenger Experience, Vahana, June 16, 2017 Tags: A3, Airbus, Vectored Thrust, 1 Passenger, 2 Passengers, Flight Testing, Electric/Batteries, Autonomous, VFS Member

Early eVTOL Test Pilots

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. 6, 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 May 2018 Kyle Clark Beta Technologies Ava XC Plattsburgh, NY, USA N802UT Nov. 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

Autonomous VTOL Technical Meeting and eVTOL Symposium 2019

8th Biennial Autonomous VTOL Technical Meeting & 6th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West (Make your reservation before rooms sell out!) Mesa, Arizona, USA Thank you to our sponsors and exhibitors: Bell, Boeing, Continuum Dynamics, Empirical Systems Inc., Gannett Fleming, Honeywell, Karem Aircraft, NEXA Capital, Pi Innovo, Sentient Science, Terrafugia, Thales and XTI Aircraft! Short Course on eVTOL Design: Mon, Jan. 28 Technical Meeting & Symposium: Tues-Thur, Jan. 29-31 Short Course on eVTOL Acoustics: Thurs/Fri Jan. 31-Feb. 1 Registration now open! Overview The 21st century has seen a continued emphasis on Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) and greater autonomy and automation for both military and civilian applications. Unmanned vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft are in varying stages of development all over the world, and continue to expand into the civil and military sectors for a variety of uses. Autonomy is being used to unmanned versions of manned helicopters for dull, dirty and dangerous military cargo missions. In addition, the operator-interface and human factors can be one of the most significant contributions to UAS safety and successful operations. Correspondingly, technologies and regulation are being developed to safely operate UAS, and integrate them into commercial and military airspace. Meanwhile, automation and various levels of autonomy are being used in modern civil helicopter cockpits, while the military’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft will need to be optionally-manned or optimally-manned. Autonomy is also a key enabler for new classes of vehicles for civil missions — such as personal air vehicles, urban air mobility and air taxi missions — using electric or hybrid-electric propulsion (eVTOL). This biennial meeting is an excellent opportunity to learn about and discuss with academic, industry, and military engineers from around the world the latest advancements in manned/unmanned, electric/hybrid/turboshaft-powered, and civil/military autonomous VTOL aircraft technology. The Technical Meeting is being held in conjunction with the 6th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium, which will be held in parallel. The conference will feature technical paper presentation related to autonomous VTOL aircraft, while the Symposium will feature invited presentations, panel sessions and discussions on electric and hybrid electric VTOL aircraft, with a focus on urban air mobility. Overall event schedule Technical Papers The 2019 Autonomous VTOL technical paper schedule (pdf) is now available!  Reminder to Authors: no paper will be scheduled for presentation if a written paper has not been received by Jan. 14, 2019. It will be author’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances or releases. Authors will receive email instruction from organizers with a link on where and how to upload their final papers. For paper questions contact Dr. Ram JankiRam (+1-480-891-6057), Technical Chair, or Dr. Kendra Befort (+1-480-891-1979), Deputy Technical Chair, or email Invited Presentations (Subject to Change) Banquet Keynote: “Autonomy at Bell,” Michael Thacker, Executive VP for Technology & Innovation, Bell Plenary Presentations: Needs for Future Autonomous VTOL Aircraft [Tues. Jan. 29 – 8:00 AM to 12:00 noon] Moderator: Dr. Ram JanakiRam, Boeing “Autonomy for Next Generation VTOL Systems,” Dr. Bill Lewis, Aviation Development Director, US Army “The Electric VTOL Revolution,” Mike Hirschberg, Vertical Flight Society Mark Jordan, Boeing Autonomous Systems …

Astro’s Elroy Blasts Off

Astro’s Elroy Blasts Off The exclusive story of the origins and progress of the PassengerDrone By Kenneth I. Swartz Vertiflite Nov/Dec 2018 Astro Aerospace holds the distinction of being one of a handful of electric aircraft developers in the world to have successfully flown a piloted electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. (More details on Astro and links to more resources are available at Although the Texas-based company is new to the aerospace business, in March 2018 it completed the strategic acquisition of all rights to PassengerDrone. The aircraft first came to international attention with the team’s YouTube video release on July 16, 2017, which revealed that the 16-rotor eVTOL aircraft had made successful autonomous flights, followed by an actual passenger flight that September. Astro Aerospace was founded by Bruce Bent, a Canadian technology investor and the chief financial officer of Matthews Southwest, a large Dallas area-based private real-estate development company with major projects in the US, Canada, the UK and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In late March 2018, the prototype PassengerDrone was shipped from Europe to North America to begin a new life as the Astro “AA360,” though that name was replaced with “Elroy” in September 2018. With the tagline “Flight Made Easy,” Astro’s goal is to “make self-flying unmanned and manned vehicles available to anyone, at any time, from anywhere, and to turn this new and exciting aircraft into a mainstream mode of transportation.” In the Beginning PassengerDrone was the brainchild of Boyan Zhelev and Ivaylo Nikolov, two Bulgaria-born electronics and software experts who spent many years working on security solutions before turning their attention to the development of drones in 2004. “At that time, only a couple of companies and teams were developing multi-rotor aircraft … [and our] initial development target was a completely autonomous system mainly for surveillance applications. Our team soon realized that there were no existing, ready-to-use electronics modules or software solutions for such applications, so we started developing these from scratch,” recalled Zhelev. The partners began “designing and building the necessary electronics modules and hardware, and developing the advanced software algorithms. Then after three years of efforts, our multi-rotor prototypes began performing completely autonomous flights in 2007.” These efforts led to a successful business partnership with some industry-leading German companies in the emerging consumer drone market, as well as work developing military applications that utilized the team’s know-how in advanced motor control and radio communications. Work on a manned eVTOL aircraft began in 2015, with the goal of “developing a passenger drone aircraft that is intuitive to fly, even for an inexperienced pilot, and that can be operated completely autonomously,” recalled Zhelev. “Our aim was developing flight control systems which can assist human operators or pilots in handling flying, with ease — much like the challenging development of automobile autopilots, but adding a third dimension.” The next three years were spent “developing a completely new system architecture to provide this desired ease of flight, with a strong focus on safety, redundancy, flight …

Uber announces countries for next Elevate City

Uber announces countries shortlisted to have first international Uber Air City Uber Elevate Press Release, Aug. 30, 2018 Uber Elevate has announced five shortlisted finalist countries that could be home to the first international Uber Air City within the next five years. Additionally, Uber Elevate has announced plans to experiment with drone delivery for Uber Eats, and demonstrated how potential Uber Air routes in Asia-Pacific cities could benefit, and complement, local transportation systems. Head of Uber aviation programs Eric Allison said, “We are proud to host the first ever Uber Elevate Asia-Pacific Expo, showcasing the exciting future Uber Air can bring to the region and to the world. In pursuit of our first international launch market, where you will be able to push a button and get a flight, we are announcing a shortlist of five countries where Uber Air can immediately transform transportation and take our technology to new heights. “We want to thank the attendees of the expo who got a first peek at Uber Eats delivered by drones, potential future routes where Uber Air will fly people across cities in the Asia-Pacific region, and many other ways Uber is creating a new future of truly multimodal transportation,” Allison added. Honorable Daisaku Hiraki, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said, “I am very pleased that Uber’s first-ever Elevate APAC Expo took place in Japan. We see much potential in flying cars, and we anticipate that flying cars can be used not only to help solve traffic congestion in urban areas, but it will also help with increase mobility between city centers and remote islands and mountainous areas, promote tourism in Japan as well as enhance disaster relief operations. “The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced on Aug. 29 that the Investments for the Future Strategy 2018 will consist of launching a Public-Private Conference for Future Air Mobility to revolutionize the aviation mobility industry. I believe public and private sectors, including companies outside of Japan, should work collaboratively to develop this new technology. I am confident that Japan has the potential to become a leader in aviation innovation.” Shortlist for First International Uber Air City Uber’s Elevate program is creating urban aerial ridesharing, globally. Starting in approximately five years, Uber customers in launch cities will be able to push a button and get a flight on demand. To enable this, Uber has assembled a network of partners that includes vehicle manufacturers, real estate developers, technology developers and more. Dallas and Los Angeles were previously announced as the first two U.S. launch cities, and at the second annual Uber Elevate Summit in May, Uber announced it was seeking an international city as a third partner. After evaluating countries across the globe, Uber executives announced at the Uber Elevate Asia-Pacific Expo that the following five countries are on a shortlist: Japan — Home of one of the world’s most enviable public transit systems and a world leader in …