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Supporting the Electric VTOL Revolution
  • 31 Aug 2020 09:59 AM
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Supporting the Electric VTOL Revolution

VFS is actively engaged in supporting and advancing the development of eVTOL.

By VFS Staff

Vertiflite, September/October 2020

The Vertical Flight Society has been working to advance electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft since 2013, providing technical, professional and business resources to this burgeoning sector. As a leading advocate of the “Electric VTOL Revolution,” VFS has been holding its Electric VTOL Symposiums since 2014, started its Electric VTOL Newsletter in 2016, and launched its Electric VTOL website in 2017.

eVTOL.news Hits 300

In mid-July, VFS added the 300th electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to its World eVTOL Aircraft Directory. The Society’s Electric VTOL News website ( www.evtol.news), the first and more expansive eVTOL information website, catalogues all known eVTOL aircraft concepts. This comprehensive directory now includes more than 300 eVTOL aircraft concepts — a leap of 50 aircraft since January — representing some 215 different companies/developers. These 300 entries include everything from conceptual studies and defunct projects to aircraft that are currently being flown for certification testing. For the past 30 months, the VFS World eVTOL Aircraft Directory has grown at a steady pace of 100 entries per year — an average of two new eVTOL aircraft concepts are added each week.

 Aviation Week produced this graphic based on data on more than 300 concepts in the VFS World eVTOL Aircraft Directory. It shows the progress of the 129 aircraft that are in active development. (© Aviation Week Network. Used with permission.)

In a recent collaboration with Aviation Week & Space Technology, the 300 aircraft concepts were analyzed by VFS and Graham Warwick, executive editor for technology at Aviation Week. Focusing on commercial concepts — and excluding defunct, research and amateur projects — reduced the total concepts to 129 companies actively developing eVTOL aircraft.

As shown in the resulting graph, VFS and Aviation Week estimate that 43 companies were at the large-scale demonstrator phase. A dozen had flown engineering or certification prototypes (in the order shown in the graphic): Joby Aviation, Kitty Hawk (Heaviside), Lilium, Volocopter, EHang, LIFT Aircraft, Hoversurf, Kitty Hawk (Flyer), Opener BlackFly and the Boeing Cargo Air Vehicle. Of these, three aircraft had gone into batch or series production — namely the EHang 216, the Kitty Hawk Flyer (since discontinued) and the Opener BlackFly — each with around 100 units.

VFS estimates that more than $4B has gone into exploring the transformative potential of eVTOL aircraft. Much of the approximately $1B in annual funding for eVTOL aircraft for passenger and cargo urban air mobility (UAM) and other advanced air mobility (AAM) missions is coming from outside of the traditional aerospace industry. For example, Toyota Motor Corporation has invested some $394M in US-based Joby Aviation (bringing total outside investment to $720M) and Hyundai Motor has pledged to invest $1.5B in its UAM efforts. In Germany, Lilium has now raised $376M from investors like Baillie Gifford, Tencent and Atomico, while Volocopter has received $140M, largely from transportation companies like Daimler, Geely and DB Schenker.

NEXA Forms UAM Geomatics Subsidiary

Last year, VFS corporate member NEXA Capital Partners founded a subsidiary, UAM Geomatics, Inc. This division leverages the work of company’s comprehensive study, “Urban Air Mobility— Economics and Global Markets 2020-2040.” Updated quarterly, the study provides forecasts for 75 metropolitan areas including costs for vehicles, infrastructure, and UAM air traffic management, and cumulative revenue by market: airport shuttles, emergency services, on demand air taxi, business aviation, and more. The interactive online databases offer ArcGIS maps of each city including thousands of geocoded data features (e.g. heliports, hospitals, the power grid, corporate head offices, etc.) and their characteristics.

VFS assisted the research for this study in order to support acceleration of eVTOL for UAM missions. As a result of the Society’s support of NEXA, including the connections and understanding that have come through corporate membership, as well as the extensive resources on the eVTOL.news website, the report and data are more complete. In gratitude, NEXA has provided a small equity share in the UAM Geomatics, whose purpose is to promote the development and utilization of eVTOL aircraft, including accelerated investment into related supply chains.

Instantiation of UAM will require a complete picture of a city’s geography, topography, and geospatial features, especially during network design, airspace planning, and, ultimately, UAM operator certification. With the UAM Geomatics tools, city planners can visualize and approve new vertiport nodes and their connections through hypothetical flight corridors, and simulate ground noise signatures along with efficient operations. More information and demonstration of the study’s deep city-level analysis of New York City can be found online at www.nexa-uam.com.

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