CityAirbus NextGen (technology demonstrator)
Airbus SE — Europe's largest aerospace company and currently the largest plane maker in the world — has business units in commercial aircraft, defense, helicopters and space. Its CityAirbus concept was initially started by Airbus Helicopters SAS, a multi-billion dollar subsidiary with headquarters is located in Marignane, France, that employees over 20,000 people worldwide. Airbus Helicopters did a feasibility study in 2015 that concluded that an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft could reach operating cost targets and safety requirements to be certified for public use for advanced air mobility (AAM). The project was moved to its Airbus Urban Mobility unit in 2018, taking advantage of company's resources in civil aircraft development and certification (Airbus Commercial Aircraft), vertical flight (Airbus Helicopters) and power systems (Airbus Defence & Space).
Airbus is currently committed to developing, building and testing alternative-propulsion systems, powered by electric, hydrogen, solar and even hybrid solutions with the ultimate goal of decarbonization for the aviation industry. Airbus' Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and ecosystem plan is being developed by using its expertise from across the Airbus Group including its helicopter division, fixed wing commercial aircraft division and its defense and space division. CityAirbus is the first generation of Airbus' eVTOL aircraft. The company does not imagine that that eVTOL aircraft will replace mass transit but will be a compliment to current transportation choices. The company's goal is to make eVTOL aircraft both sustainable from an environmental and business perspective. Safety of the eVTOL passenger aircraft is a top priority for Airbus.
On September 21, 2021, Airbus announced its new CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL passenger technology demonstrator aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM). The aircraft holds four people, including the pilot, has a cruise speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) and a range of 80 km (50 miles). The aircraft has a modern futuristic design, a design that Batman could be seen flying in, has a comfortable interior and the aircraft has large windows for a better passenger experience. The company has noted that the CityAirbus NextGen aircraft is scalable.
The aircraft has a total of eight propellers, sixteen electric motors and uses batteries for its power source. There are sixteen electric motors for to build in redundancy into the aircraft which translates to increased safety for the aircraft. Each propeller has four propeller blades. There are two propellers located near the front ends of the wing, four propellers located on the trailing edge of the wings and two pusher propellers in the rear, at the top of the V-shaped tail.
The eVTOL aircraft has one main high-wing and has a V-shaped tail with a horizontal stabilizer at the top of the V. The aircraft's V-shaped tail has a pronounced upwards slope from the main fuselage, has hexagon skylights and the aircraft has four fixed landing legs. The aircraft has no moving surfaces or tilting parts when transitioning from vertical to forward flight and the reverse, and has fixed strut landing gear.
As battery technology is still in its infancy of holding enough electricity for sustained flight over very long distances, using a wing on eVTOL aircraft increases the range of the aircraft making it more effective for advanced air mobility. The fact that only electric motors, small propellers, batteries, avionics and carbon fiber fuselage material being used on these nascent aircraft allows for an all battery power source.
Airbus has designed the CityAirbus NextGen aircraft to reduce its complexity which increases safety exponentially, reduces manufacturing costs, reduces maintenance costs, reduces the cost of purchasing the aircraft and increases the service life of the aircraft. Reducing complexity also reduces weight which then in turn, increases the range of the aircraft.
A conventional aircraft with an engine, transmission, rotor blades (helicopters), gas tanks, fuel, oil, tail boom shafts (on helicopters) not only is very heavy but has many parts and many moving parts, any of which that fail could cause fatal accidents. With electric VTOL (or eVTOL) aircraft, there is one moving part in an electric motor and furthermore, electric motors are extremely reliable. This why aviation experts and professionals state that electric aircraft decrease the complexity and weight of the aircraft and greatly increase the safety of its passengers.
On September 21, 2021, the company stated, "The CityAirbus NextGen meets the highest certification standards (EASA SC-VTOL Enhanced Category). Airbus is benefitting from years of dedicated research, innovation, two electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) demonstrators, and development on sound technology across its portfolio of products, as well as decades of experience in certifying aircraft. Furthermore, Airbus has used extensive subscale flight testing and wind tunnel campaigns and has leveraged its computing and modelling power."
As of February 2023, CityAirbus NextGen is preparing to begin the assembly of the CityAirbus NextGen prototype and expects its first flight to take place in 2024. The company established a test center for its eVTOL program Airbus Helicopters' facility in Donauwörth, Germany where the first prototype will be built. Airbus has noted that future VTOL production aircraft could have hydrogen hybrid-electric power sources. The company also stated they are using the technology demonstrator to pave the way for its certification.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL passenger technology demonstrator aircraft
- Piloting: Piloted initially (plans to become autonomous when regulations allow)
- Capacity: 1 pilot and 3 passengers
- Cruise speed: 120 km/h (75 mph)
- Range: 80 km (50 miles)
- Flight Time: Unknown
- Maximum payload: Unknown
- Propellers: 8 propellers (there are 6 VTOL propellers, 2 pusher propellers and each propeller has 4 propeller blades)
- Electric Motors: 16 electric motors (for redundancy)
- Power source: Batteries (future models could hybrid-electric)
- Sound: Sound levels are below 65 dB(A) during fly-over and below 70 dB(A) during landing
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
- Windows: Panoramic wrap around windows allowing forward, left, right and top visibility, for spectacular views
- Wing: 1 high wing
- Tail: V-shaped tail with a horizontal stabilizer at the top of the V
- Landing gear: 4 fixed landing struts
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft. The aircraft has no moving surfaces or tilting parts when transitioning from vertical to forward flight and the reverse which increases safety by reducing complexity.
- Airbus CityAirbus NextGen web page
- Airbus Urban Air Mobility web page
- Airbus Low-Carbon Aviation web page
- Airbus Helicopters website
- Airbus Helicopters Facebook
- Airbus Helicopters Twitter
- Airbus Helicopters YouTube Channel
- Airbus Helicopters Instagram
- Airbus Helicopters LinkedIn
- Airbus CityAirbus Wikipedia
- Article: Airbus Pursues Autonomous Air Taxi Research Project, Aviation Voice, Mar. 8, 2016
- Article: Airbus is working on a self-flying taxi, and the prototype could fly as early as 2018, Mashable, Oct. 5, 2017
- Article: Airbus revealed a new version of its CityAirbus flying EV built to fly quietly over urban areas, Business Insider, Sept. 21, 2021
- Article: Airbus reveals its next-generation CityAirbus eVTOL, eVTOL Magazine, Sept. 21, 2021
- Article: Airbus Unveils Latest Generation of CityAirbus eVTOL Aircraft, Flying Magazine, Sept. 21, 2021
- Video: CityAirbus NextGen, Airbus, Sept. 21, 2021
- Article: Airbus explains design philosophy behind its CityAirbus NextGen, eVTOL Magazine, Oct. 1, 2021
- Article: Airbus talks CityAirbus NextGen, Vertical Magazine, Mar. 1, 2022
- Article: Airbus leads US$91M Air Mobility Initiative to explore UAM operations in Germany, eVTOL Magazine, May 4, 2022
- Article: CityAirbus NextGen could take to the skies in Italy and Germany soon, Design Boom, May 6, 2022
- Article: KLK Motorsport and Gerg GmbH to develop rear fuselage for CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL, eVTOL Magazine, June 23, 2022
- Article: Airbus’ Markus May on the Air Mobility Initiative in Germany and why it was created, eVTOL Magazine, July 27, 2022
- Article: Airbus Builds Test Center to Work On CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL Aircraft, Future Flight, July 28, 2022
- Article: Airbus Partners with Japanese Helicopter Operator for eVTOL Flight Tests, Future Flight, Sept. 8, 2022
- Article: Airbus extends collaboration with Ecocopter for urban air mobility services in Chile, Ecuador and Peru, Airbus, Sept. 20, 2022
- Article: Airbus prepares to begin assembly of CityAirbus NextGen demonstrator, Vertical Magazine, February 23, 2023
- Article: Assembly Close For First CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL Prototype, Aviation International News Online, Mar. 7, 2023
- Video: Airbus Aims to Bring CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL Aircraft to Market in 2025 – FutureFlight, Aviation International News, Mar. 14, 2023
- Article: Airbus and Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation to develop CityAirbus NextGen’s future medical missions in Norway, Vertical Magazine, Mar. 8, 2023