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Aurora Flight Sciences Pegasus PAV

Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV)
Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company
Manassas, Virginia, USA

Aurora Flight Sciences was started in May 1989 by John Langford, III (PhD in Aeronautics and Public Policy from MIT) with two employees; fast forward to 2018, the company had about 550 employees among its four main sites. Aurora bills itself as "an innovative technology company which strives to create smarter aircraft through the development of versatile and intuitive autonomous systems." On Nov. 8, 2017, The Boeing Company acquired Aurora Flight Sciences.

The Aurora Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) is an all-electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft with eight propellers for vertical flight, a tail mounted pusher-prop for forward flight and a three-surface wing configuration for cruising. The aircraft is 30 ft (9.14 m) long, 28 ft (8.53 m) wide, a maximum range of 50 miles (80 km), carry a load of 496 lbs (225 kg) and its maximum speed is 112 mph (180 km/h). It is a two (2) passenger aircraft and can be piloted or flown autonomously.

Aurora is an independent subsidiary of Boeing. What that means is that it combines Aurora's innovation with Boeing's' strength. They are the world's largest [aerospace company] with one of the most successful product lines. But they do not build eVTOL today. No company builds eVTOL today. That is a market that does not exist.

So how do you go after a market that doesn't exist? The idea is to have Aurora explore these markets that involve very advanced technology, then do the prototyping work, then the market exploration work, and hopefully find new markets and new programs that can be fed into Boeing so that when someone wants a few thousands of those airplanes, Boeing can do it. So that's the idea behind the merger, our innovation with their size and strength. — John S. Lanford, III.

From Vertiflite magazine, May/Jun. 2018, page 48.

Aurora’s aircraft is born out of a 2017 partnership with Uber as part of the Uber Elevate Mission. Initially, a 1/10 model was flown with and without a fuselage. This was followed by a fully configured 1/4 sized model. On Jan. 22, 2019, a full-size prototype of this design (registration details for tail number N83AU here) was successfully hovered at the Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, Virginia, USA. The PAV prototype completed a controlled takeoff, hover and landing testing the vehicle's autonomous functions as well as the ground control systems.

Aurora expects that the noise at takeoff will blend in with background road traffic noise at a height of 6-100 ft (18-30 m), making the aircraft essentially "inaudible" from the ground when in cruise flight.

This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy, said John Langford, III, president and chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences. Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.

From Vertiflite magazine, Mar./Apr. 2019, page 37.

On June 4, 2019 at 7:09 a.m., the Aurora Flight Sciences Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) number N83AU — which was uncrewed and remotely piloted — crashed during a landing on runway 34L at the Manassas Regional Airport, Manassas, Virginia, USA. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported the details in October. It is interesting to note that the world first learned about of the name of PAV aircraft, "Pegasus," from this NTSB report.

According to the NTSB report, Aurora Flight Sciences was flying a pre-planned low speed flight stability test including side-to-side and forward flight maneuvers with the pusher propeller off. The pilots then noticed "brief data dropouts and abnormal motor speeds," and decided to end the flight. The pilot followed normal operation procedures by entering the autoland function and shortly after the start of a normal descent, all electric motors stopped and the aircraft crash landed.

A review of the recorded data was provided by the operator/manufacturer revealed that airframe vibration occurred in a resonant mode and was transmitted through the structure into the flight controller. The accelerations resulting from the vibrations briefly exceeded the jerk logic threshold and the aircraft entered the ground mode, subsequently commanding the motors to shutdown. The aircraft was equipped with a radar altimeter, but in this test configuration it was not used for ground detection in the autoland sequence. — NTSB report.

There were no injuries but there was structural damage to multiple parts of the aircraft and two motors were fractured. According to an EVTOL news report, Aurora Flight Sciences plans on resuming the flying of their second prototype in early 2020.

As one of Uber Elevate's vehicle partners, the aircraft has been designed as an Air Taxi to operate in urban environments and to easily fly, to and from Uber's Skyports. The PAV for Uber's missions will be a four (4) passenger eVTOL aircraft. Aurora also has other hybrid-electric VTOL technologies it can apply to the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market. The organization has been responsible for the development of other VTOL aircraft in the past, including the Aurora LightningStrike.

On May 8, 2018, at the second Uber Elevate Summit, Aurora unveiled three design variants that are also being considered.

This January 2019 graphic is believed to be the current configuration of Aurora's aircraft for the Uber Elevate mission.

1/4 Scale PAV Specifications:

  • Fuselage length: 6.6 ft (2 m)
  • Wingspan: 6.6 ft (2 m)
  • Tip-to-tip distance: 6.6 ft (2 m)
  • Maximum gross take-off weight: 27.6 lbs (12.5 kg)
  • Cruise Speed: 48.6 kt (56 mph / 90 km/h)
  • VTOL propellers: 8
  • Forward flight: 1 tail mounted pusher propeller
  • Motor output: 8X 100 hp (8X 75 kW)
  • Power: Electric/batteries
  • Passengers: 0
  • First flight: April 2017

Full-Scale PAV Specifications:

  • Fuselage length: 30 ft (9.14 m)
  • Wingspan: 28 ft (8.53 m)
  • Empty weight: 1,265 lbs (565 (kg)
  • Maximum gross take-off weight: 1,760 lbs (800 kg)
  • Useful load: 496 lbs (225 kg)
  • Cruise Speed: 112 mph (97 kt / 180 km/h)
  • Range: 50 miles (80 km / 43 nm)
  • VTOL propellers: 8
  • Forward flight: 1 tail mounted five (5) bladed pusher propeller
  • Motor output: 8X 100 hp (8X 75 kW)
  • Power: Electric/batteries
  • Passengers: 2
  • First flight: January 22, 2019

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