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AAM Showcase at Paris Air Show
  • 26 Aug 2023 02:32 PM
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AAM Showcase at Paris Air Show

By Jim Sherman
Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2023

Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) took a prominent role at the biannual Paris Air Show with a dedicated hall to display electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and a three-day Paris Air Mobility event hosted by Aviation Week.

AAM Display

In anticipation of the 2024 Paris Olympics’ Re.Invent Air Mobility program, planners for the Paris Air Show dedicated Hall 5 to AAM vehicle displays, including Airbus, Archer, Ascendance Flight Technologies, AutoFlight, EHang, Eve Air Mobility (part of Embraer), Joby Aviation, Lilium and Volocopter. While Eve and Lilium only brought cabin mockups, Archer and Volocopter, displayed full-vehicle mockups, while EHang had one of its small flying EH216 aircraft. Wisk had its Generation 6 eVTOL aircraft mockup in a dedicated exhibit in the Boeing chalet.

Ascendance exhibited a model of their latest design iteration, and Airbus also displayed a CityAirbus model, along with a digital video display. AutoFlight also had a model on display in Hall 5 and a flying aircraft in the static display.

Airbus CityAirbus NextGen model.

Airbus displayed a scale model of the CityAirbus along with an expansive digital display providing vehicle design details, operational capabilities and program plans. Philippe Moreels, Director of Strategy & Partnerships, Advanced Air Mobility, provided some background saying that, while progress continues on the CityAirbus program, Airbus is focused more on understanding the full ecosystem from aircraft design through operations and maintenance.

Archer took the big leap and brought a mockup of its Midnight eVTOL aircraft and took center stage in the Hall 5 AAM display. The Midnight is a large, five-seat aircraft, and it dominated the attention in the hall, especially since attendees to the Aviation Week Paris Air Mobility Program needed to pass by the vehicle to join the audience. As the vehicle was production-representative, visitors were treated to the opportunity to see the cabin and the cockpit.

Archer Midnight full-scale mockup.

While no orders were announced, Archer highlighted its partnership with Stellantis as its manufacturing partner, and its confidence in rapid scaling in production.

Additionally, on June 21, Archer revealed details of its ongoing partnership with Safran Electronics & Defense. In a press release, Archer said that Safran’s UCAP multicore processor and SkyNaute navigation system are central to its path to the certification of the Midnight. “These successful achievements with UCAP flight computer and SkyNaute navigation system help to pave the way for the entry into service of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft,” said Frank Saudo, CEO of Safran Electronics & Defense. The two companies began their collaboration in 2021.

Ascendance Flight Technologies displayed a mockup of the Atea vehicle. The Atea is designed with eight in-wing lift propellers, plus a cruise propellor on the nose and tail, powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system. At the show, Ascendance and Daher announced a strategic partnership. This partnership will allow both companies to research new ways of hybridizing the propulsion systems of Daher aircraft based on technologies developed by Ascendance Flight Technologies.

Ascendance announced an order for 110 aircraft, bringing the total orders for Atea to 505.

AutoFlight didn’t have a full-size aircraft in Hall 5, but brought an actual aircraft to the static display area. Katharina Wagner, Head of Business Development, provided a personal tour of the Prosperity I aircraft, highlighting the newly unveiled interior (designed by renowned automobile designer Frank Stephenson), which has a focus on sustainable materials.

AutoFlight Head of Business Development Katharina Wagner with the Prosperity I eVTOL demonstrator.

AutoFlight and Groupe ADP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to experiment with Prosperity 1 eVTOL flights during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. This “exploration” will take place at Pontoise Airport. AutoFlight intends to showcase the capabilities of its 155-mile (250-km) range lift + cruise eVTOL, while Groupe ADP reconfirmed its commitment to launching AAM, which is now being called “Innovative Air Mobility” (IAM) by European Union Safety Agency (EASA) countries. The collaboration aims to highlight AutoFlight’s potential “in scaling up sustainable urban logistics and passenger transportation,” explained a press release, “under real-world conditions.”

EHang also displayed a full-sized aircraft, claimed to have completed over 90% of the necessary certification tests required by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). No orders were announced at the event, but EHang has produced over 200 of its EH216 model and has over 1,200 pre-orders confirmed.

Eve Air Mobility evolved its design last year, having kept eight propellers for vertical lift, but changed from two cruise propellers to one, and reconfigured the wing to be more conventional and simpler to manufacture design.

The cabin mockup at the Pair Air Mobility display was a four-passenger configuration with two forward-facing and two rear-facing seats, plus the pilot. Once the vehicle is converted to autonomous flight, up to six passengers can be accommodated.

Visitors to the display could don a virtual headset to get a preview of the Eve experience. David Rottblatt, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, provided a brief tour of the vehicle and highlighted that Eve was on its fifth design iteration. Eve expects to complete the first full-scale prototype by the end of 2023, getting into flight testing by late 2024.

At the start of the event, Eve announced orders for 50 aircraft from Widerøe Zero and 30 more from Nordic Aviation Capital. This brings the total number of orders, both firm commitments and provisional orders, to 2,850 aircraft.

Eve also announced partnerships with Japan’s Nidec to provide electric motors, BAE Systems to provide energy storage systems, and DUC Hélice propellers to provide the rotors and propellers.

EHang 216 eVTOL aircraft.

Jaunt Air Mobility focused on the design and manufacture of next-generation eVTOL aircraft, announcing the signing of an MOU with Global Partner Solutions, Inc. (GPSI), a renowned provider of sustainable procurement, supply chain and program management services.

As part of this strategic partnership, GPSI will work closely with Jaunt Air Mobility to establish a world-class supply chain ecosystem focused on Quebec-based suppliers. Over the next three years, the parties expect that over $7.6M (CAN$10M) will be invested and spent in establishing, enhancing and utilizing the supply chain ecosystem to support Jaunt Air Mobility’s growth.

Lilium also displayed a cabin mockup, their latest version, which holds six passengers and some luggage. The display also provided details on the Lilium proprietary technology at the core of the Lilium Jet — Ducted Electric Vectored Thrust (DEVT). This technology has been refined through successive generations of aircraft demonstrators. Electric jet engines integrated into the wing flaps provide advantages in payload, aerodynamic efficiency and a lower noise profile, while also providing thrust vector control.

The company announced an MOU to open a regional headquarters in Shenzhen, China, to focus on the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay area. Lilium also announced that Shenzhen-based Heli-Eastern intends to order 100 Lilium Jets and will partner with Lilium to identify potential sites and partners for vertiports and other ground infrastructure.

Lilium also announced 11 additional new orders at the event, bringing its total orders to 645 aircraft.

For more at the Paris AAM air show, see sidebar, "Paris Air Mobility Program"

SkyDrive, while not exhibiting at the air show, made a number of announcements at the event. First, SkyDrive announced that it has been testing and verifying the design change from a seating capacity of two to three passengers for some time, in order to meet the needs of operators and end-users. The announcement followed the completion of the patent application for a unique rotor dome design, which is described below. The change will enable a more profitable operation and a more convenient and enjoyable experience.

With the design of the three-seater “SKYDRIVE” aircraft, SkyDrive announced a basic production agreement with Suzuki Motor Corporation to begin in early 2024, and aims to obtain airworthiness certification in 2025 to fly the “SKYDRIVE” eVTOL at the Expo 2025 Osaka, Japan, followed by type certification in 2026 to start mass production and delivery. SkyDrive also aims to obtain the type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to start operations in the US.

Eve Air Mobility (and Lilium) brought a cabin mockup so visitors could experience what riding in an eVTOL will be like.

Finally, SkyDrive, Inc. announced that the company has selected Thales to provide the flight control system for its production eVTOL. With more than 12,000 aircraft equipped with Thales solutions, Thales FlytRise provides a new generation of flight controls, offering the “SKYDRIVE” the combined benefits of proven experience and adaptation to eVTOL requirements.

Volocopter made history by being the first eVTOL to open the Paris Air Show flying display — a piloted two-seat 2X eVTOL — which was also the first public eVTOL flight in France. However, most attendees may have missed it, as there wasn’t the typical roar of high-power jet engines to interrupt the din at the Le Bourget Airfield. Volocopter also displayed a production twoseat VoloCity in the Hall 5 display and entertained a constant stream of interested visitors.

Volocopter and Groupe ADP, alongside the French Civil Aviation Authority (Direction générale de l’Aviation civile, DGAC) and the Paris Region, have confirmed that the launch of the first eVTOL aircraft services over Paris Region skies for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is on track. The partners have identified three connection routes and two round-trip tourist locations.

Wisk also displayed the Generation 6 aircraft in the static area with its own pavilion. Madeliene Finnegan, Wisk’s Senior Manager of Events and Communications, provided a tour of the aircraft that features a “frunk” for luggage, and a modern passenger cabin that is larger than previous generations and includes accessibility features to service passengers with disabilities.

The latest generation changed direction by changing to tilting propellers and lifting propellers (lift + lift/cruise) from having separate, non-tilting propellers (lift + cruise). Dan Dalton, VP of Global Partnerships, pointed out the benefits of the change, especially the reduced drag compared to the Generation 5 Cora aircraft.

Wisk also announced a partnership with Safran Electronics & Defense to supply the SkyNaute inertial navigation system (INS) and its HRG crystal hemispherical resonator gyroscope (HRG).

Other AAM Displays

Several electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) aircraft were also on display in the exhibit halls and static display.

ONERA, the French Aerospace Lab, displayed a model of a future airliner design that incorporates a multitude of technologies, including hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion, a truss-braced wing, and double-bubble fuselage among many.

AURA AERO introduced the ERA electric regional/business/ freight aircraft and confirmed 50 pre-orders for the aircraft. In addition, the three versions of the Integral trainer aircraft were presented in the static display, including the Integral E electric trainer.

Væridion highlighted its electric “microliner” capable of carrying up to nine passengers up to 500 km (312 mi). The design features a high-efficiency glider-inspired wing design. The batteries are mounted in the wings to maximize passenger space.

VoltAero displayed its Cassio 330e eCTOL.

Paris Air Lab, a future-focused exhibition, was housed in the Concorde Hall of the Musée de l’air et de l’espace (“Air and Space Museum”). Showcasing innovations, the Air Lab provided visitors with an opportunity to discover the technology addressing tomorrow’s challenges, namely climate change, artificial intelligence and the future of mobility. Space was dedicated to electrification, such as Rolls-Royce’s direct-drive propulsion system, hydrogen — including Airbus’ fuel-cell propulsion — and futuristic aircraft designs.

About the Author

Jim Sherman is the Aviation Forum Executive at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and a longtime leader in electric propulsion and aviation. He served as the VFS Director of Strategic Development (2019–2022) and the Technical Conference Developer at SAE International (2011–2019), after two decades in the aerospace and defense industry.

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