• +1-703-684-6777
  • news@evtol.news
eVTOL Leaders Continue Achievements
  • 09 May 2024 12:26 PM
  • 0

eVTOL Leaders Continue Achievements

By Dan Gettinger, Managing Editor, and Mike Hirschberg, Director of Strategy
Vertiflite May/June 2024

In the past several months, the leading developers of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft made strides towards operationalizing their vision for advanced air mobility (AAM). Multiple companies revealed partnerships and plans aimed at establishing the necessary flight facilities and infrastructure for eVTOL aircraft. Others made progress towards achieving the certification of their aircraft. The following represents a summary of recent activities by some of the leading developers of eVTOL aircraft. Updates of additional companies are covered elsewhere in this issue.

Archer battery drop test

Archer Aviation
On March 11, Archer Aviation announced that it had partnered with Falcon Aviation to establish a network of vertiports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Archer’s Midnight eVTOL aircraft could begin operating from the Falcon Heliport at The Palm in Dubai as soon as 2025, potentially replacing the helicopters that currently provide charter flights from the site. In October 2023, the San Jose, California-based company Archer signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with several companies in the UAE, including Falcon, which pledged to operate Archer air taxis across the region.

On March 18, Stellantis announced that it had completed a purchase of approximately 8.3M shares of Archer stock. In a statement, Carlos Tavares, the CEO of the multinational automotive manufacturing company, said that Archer had established itself as a “market leader” in electric aviation. The two companies have had a strategic partnership since 2020; in January 2023, Stellantis announced that it intended to mass produce Midnight at Archer’s production facility in Covington, Georgia.

On March 28, Archer announced that it had completed battery drop tests (shown) to simulate extreme impact scenarios. The tests, which took place at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) Lab at Wichita State University, involved dropping the batteries from a height of 50 ft (15.2 m), and at states of charge of 0%, 30% and 100%. The tests are among the “most challenging barriers to certification, designed to ensure battery packs can safely endure significant impact,” the company said in a press release. Archer’s decision to use cylindrical cells (versus pouch cells used by Joby and others) within its propriety battery pack design, was a “pivotal factor in the success of these tests.”

Beta Techologies flying over New York City

Beta Technologies
On March 7, Signature Aviation announced that it had partnered with Beta Technologies to install Beta’s electric chargers at airports on the US East Coast. The two companies completed the installation of a charger at New Hampshire’s Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and had signed agreements with two other locations, Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland and the Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport in Virginia. Beta and Signature are also exploring other potential sites.

The Burlington, Vermont-based AAM company has a network of charging stations from the northeast to Florida and southwest to Arkansas (see “Beta Goes the Distance,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2023). In mid-February, Beta flew its Alia electric conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) demonstrator back from a four-month trip, working “with military and civilian partners across the eastern seaboard and the Gulf coast,” including an extended deployment to the US Air Force’s Duke Field in Florida.

EHang EH216 world's first type certificate from China's CAAC

EHang delivered 23 EH216 eVTOL aircraft to customers in the final quarter of 2023, the company reported in its fiscal year 2023 financial results on March 15. EHang commenced deliveries following the award of the world’s first eVTOL type certification (TC) of the EH216-S by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in October (see “A Small Step for EHang, a Giant Leap for eVTOL,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2023), and the standard airworthiness certificate (AC) in December (see “eVTOL Leaders Continue to Advance,” Vertiflite, March/April 2024).

On April 7, the Guangzhou-based company announced that the CAAC had granted it a Production Certificate (PC) for the two-seat, pilotless EH216-S. Securing this certificate indicates that EHang has established a mass production quality management system that meets the CAAC’s airworthiness regulatory requirements, EHang said in a press release, and that the company has been authorized for continued mass production. The mass production quality management system for the EH216-S encompasses raw materials, supplier management, production organization, production quality control, aircraft pre-delivery test, after sales repair and maintenance, etc. The system establishes clear guidelines and documentation for every step in the production procedure, ensuring comprehensive traceability and safety control to guarantee that each aircraft and its components rolling off the production line are in strict compliance with the approved type design and safety requirements, EHang said.

During the PC certification process, the review team of the Central-South Regional Administration of the CAAC conducted a comprehensive document review and on-site verification and validation from multiple perspectives of quality, production, testing and after-sales, based upon the Regulations on Certification of Civil Aviation Products and Parts (CCAR-21-R4), and the Production Approval and Supervision Procedures (AP-21-AA-2023-31). This included a strict and thorough assessment of EHang’s production capabilities and quality management system, including a total of 19 elements, such as organizational management, design documents control, personnel capabilities and qualifications, supplier management, production process control, inspection and testing, among others.

“In the past six months, EHang’s EH216-S has secured three groundbreaking achievements in airworthiness certification: the world’s first TC, PC and standard AC for the passenger-carrying [uncrewed aircraft],” Heyong Lin, Director of the Airworthiness Division of the CAAC’s Central-South Regional Administration, stated. “EHang epitomizes a pioneering enterprise of new business model in the Central and Southern region, representing new quality productive forces.” Lin presented the certificate (shown) to Huazhi Hu, Founder, Chairman and CEO of EHang.

Eve Air Mobility Vector screen

Eve Air Mobility
On Feb. 19, Eve Air Mobility announced that it had partnered with Yugo Global Industries to study the potential for eVTOL aircraft flights in Southeast Asia. The focus of the partnership will be potential infrastructure requirements for eVTOL aircraft. Yugo, a Singapore-based AAM company, previously announced a partnership with US-based Electra, hoping to bring its electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft to the region.

Eve Air Mobility announced on Feb. 20 that Aciturri and Crouzet had joined its team of suppliers for its eVTOL aircraft. Aciturri, a Spanish aerostructures company, will develop and manufacture the wing skins, spares, and the leading and trailing edges of the wing. France’s Crouzet will supply the pilot controls, namely the control stick. The two companies join four others Eve announced in January (see “eVTOL Leaders Continue to Advance,” Vertiflite, March/ April 2024).

Also on Feb. 20, Eve said that SkyScape intends to use Eve’s urban air traffic management (ATM) software. SkyScape, a vertiport company based in Osaka, Japan, will use Eve’s Urban ATM in its AAM concept of operations, becoming the first customer of the software in Japan and 13th worldwide. Meanwhile, at the Airspace World conference in Geneva on March 19, Eve announced that its Urban ATM software will be known as Vector.

Joby Aviation patent drawing

Joby Aviation
On Feb. 7, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published its Aviation Investigation Final Report on the Feb. 16, 2022, accident of Joby Aviation’s remotely piloted air taxi prototype (N542AJ). “The envelope expansion flight test conditions were beyond the expected operating conditions of the aircraft,” the report noted. Then, “after reaching a maximum dive speed of 181 knots [335 km/h] indicated airspeed (KIAS) at an altitude of approximately 8,900 feet [2,700 m], a propeller blade on propulsion station 3 (located on the right wing inboard) experienced a bending failure near the root of the blade which culminated in the release of the propeller blade.”

“Cascading effects resulted from the initial inflight blade failures including the separation of multiple propulsion motor/propeller assemblies and loss of remote pilot control of the aircraft,” the report said.

Distributed electric propulsion approaches like Joby’s feature multiple redundant propellers for safety in the event of a single failure. Joby designed the overall architecture of its air taxi to minimize the potential for the loss of one propeller causing additional cascading failures. As highlighted several years ago (see “Inside Joby’s Unicorn,” Vertiflite, Jan/Feb 2021), Joby’s “Patent application 2020/0148347 [shown] shows how the three propeller pairs each form a different plane in the X and Z axes in both hover and cruise to minimize attitude change in the event of the loss of thrust from one propeller.”

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published the final airworthiness criteria for the Santa Cruz, California-based Joby Aviation on March 8. It included a number of changes to the previously proposed airworthiness criteria published in November 2022. Notably, “Expectations were added for the aircraft to be capable of a controlled emergency landing following any condition where the aircraft can no longer provide the commanded power or thrust required for continued safe flight and landing.” Joby states that this has already been incorporated in the final design of its air taxi.

On Feb. 21, Joby announced that it had completed the third of five stages (using the company’s terminology) of the FAA’s type certification process. The third stage involved certification plans for the structural, mechanical and electrical systems on Joby’s eVTOL aircraft. In the fourth stage, Joby will complete test and analyses of every aspect of its eVTOL aircraft for FAA credit, a process for which Joby completed 30 for-credit tests in the fourth quarter of 2023.

On March 5, Joby revealed that it had acquired a facility at Dayton International Airport in Ohio. The facility will support initial manufacturing operations of components in support of Joby’s Pilot Production Line in Marina, California, in expectation of which Joby has begun hiring local personnel. Joby announced plans to establish a manufacturing facility in Dayton in September 2023 (see “Joby Delivers,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2023); the company expects to begin operations later this year. Ultimately, Joby intends to produce up to 500 aircraft in Dayton annually.

Joby announced on March 19 that it will deliver two additional eVTOL aircraft to the US Air Force in 2025. Under an expanded agreement with the Air Force’s AFWERX Agility Prime, Joby will deliver the aircraft to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, where operational military units will use the aircraft for testing and training. Meanwhile, Joby also expects to deliver a second aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base in California. And in a social media post in March, Joby said it had recently completed High-Intensity Radiated Field (HIRF) testing at Edwards to evaluate the aircraft’s ability to protect its electronic equipment from interference.

Lilium Jet and Florida Network Hub

On Feb. 8, Lilium said that Florida’s Orlando Regional Airport will serve as a network hub for Lilium Jet operators in Florida. Lilium also announced its support for Florida House Bill 981, which would have designated the airport as an AAM test site in Florida and enabled vertiport permitting at the site. Despite passing Florida’s House of Representatives, the bill died in the state Senate in early March.

Lilium revealed its customer service organization, dubbed Lilium Power-On, on Feb. 20, during the Singapore Airshow. The business unit will provide support in the form of battery management, maintenance, flight operations, training and digital solutions. Lilium expects the services market will generate $5B in revenue by 2035, according to a press release.

Meanwhile, on the same occasion, PhilJets agreed that it would purchase 10 Lilium Jets. PhilJets will work with Lilium to introduce eVTOL aircraft to the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, Lilium said that it had partnered with Star Charge, an electric vehicle (EV) charging company based in China, on developing and producing charging systems for the Lilium Jet. Lilium placed an initial order for 120 chargers for its ground and flight testing aircraft, which will use the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard for rapid charging. Star Charge’s chargers will feature an extra-long liquid-cooled charging cable for high-performance charging, suitable for varied landing infrastructure.

On March 13, Lilium announced that it had partnered with Atlantic Aviation to prepare Atlantic’s US network of fixed-base operations (FBO) for Lilium’s eVTOL aircraft. Atlantic operates FBO at more than 30 airports locations within Lilium’s planned launch markets in Florida, Southern California, the Northeast and Texas. Munich-based Lilium is the latest eVTOL aircraft developer to partner with Atlantic, which signed agreements with Archer, Beta and Joby in January.

Han Kok Juan Director General of CAAS, Jacqueline Poh Managing Director of EDB and Jaiwon Shin CEO of Supernal

Supernal announced on Feb. 20 during the Singapore Airshow that it had partnered with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

The two entities and Supernal, the AAM subsidiary of the Hyundai Motor Group, pledged to undertake a variety of activities aimed at furthering the AAM capabilities and expertise in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region.

A signing ceremony included (shown, L-R) Han Kok Juan, Director- General of CAAS; Jacqueline Poh, Managing Director of EDB; and Jaiwon Shin, President of Hyundai Motor Group and CEO of Supernal.

Vertical Aerospace's second aircraft being built in the United Kingdom, picture taken February 2024

Vertical Aerospace
Vertical announced on Feb. 20 that it secured an £8M ($10M) grant from the UK government. The grant, provided through the UK Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Program, will go towards developing the propellers on Vertical’s VX4 aircraft. Bristol, UK-based Vertical has secured a total of four ATI grants totalling £37M ($47M) to date. Vertical’s previous ATI-funded projects include one to develop battery technology (see “eVTOL Leaders Continue Advancements,” Vertiflite, May/June 2023).

The second aircraft is now being completed. A photo was released in mid-February (shown) of the wing-mate at GKN Aerospace’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol. The tail section and electric harnesses were installed by late March, prior to being moved to Vertical’s flight test facility in Gloucestershire in April.

On March 5, the UK-based Skyports Infrastructure announced that it would develop the UK’s first vertiport testbed at Bicester Motion, Oxfordshire, opening at the end of this year. Vertical announced that it “would conduct demonstration flights and test key procedures ahead of commercial launch.”

Bicester Motion, a 444-acre (180-hA) former World War II training station, is a future mobility innovation hub. The new vertiport, which will include a compact 1,700-ft² (160-m²) passenger terminal, will be a critical facility for testing ground infrastructure and flight operations and will play a significant role in enabling the next generation of electric, low noise aviation in the UK, Skyports noted.

Volocopter test flight

On Feb. 28, Volocopter announced that the Luftfahrt Bundesamt (LBA), Germany’s civil aviation authority, extended its certification of Volocopter’s production facilities. The Production Organization Approval (POA) extension extends to Volocopter’s new production and hangar facilities near its headquarters in Bruchsal, Germany, and allows the company to begin serial production of the VoloCity eVTOL aircraft.

Volocopter announced on Feb. 29 that the Luftfahrt Bundesamt had named the company an Approved Training Organization (ATO). The ATO certification permits Volocopter to train pilots for its eVTOL aircraft and is the culmination of a year of supervision by the Luftfahrt Bundesamt of Volocopter’s policies and procedures.

Wisk Aero published an Accessibility whitepaper

Wisk Aero
On Feb. 21, Wisk Aero and the city of Sugar Land in Texas partnered to bring AAM operations to the greater Houston area. Sugar Land, a city in Houston’s southwest suburbs, will work with the Boeing eVTOL subsidiary to evaluate options for establishing a vertiport at Sugar Land Regional Airport, as well as the development of maintenance and training facilities and routes around Houston.

On March 5, the Mountain View, California-based Wisk and the consultancy ReD Associates published a whitepaper examining barriers in mobility and the ways by which eVTOL aircraft could provide “consistent, efficient, affordable and accessible services” to those in need. The whitepaper, “eVTOL Air Taxis: New Opportunities for Equitable Transport,” is the product of a mixed-methods study of people with disabilities and identifies five levels of accessibility to guide the AAM industry.

Leave a Comment