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Pivotal BlackFly V1 (prototype)

 

BlackFly V1 (prototype)
Pivotal
Palo Alto, California, USA
www.pivotal.aero

Pivotal was founded in 2011 in Warkworth, Ontario, Canada by Marcus Leng and is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page. The company's headquarters are now located in Palo Alto, California, USA. The company's original name was SkyKar and that name was eventually changed to Opener Aero. Opener Aero's name was change to Pivotal in October 2023. The company is in the business of designing and manufacturing passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM).

On October 5, 2011, Canadian engineer Leng made the first crewed flight (a 20 second flight) of the company's proof of concept electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in the small town of Warkworth, Canada. This was the first crewed flight of a fixed-wing eVTOL aircraft, according the company's website. This event prompted the formation of a stealth company with the sole purpose of pursuing the development of this novel technology. In September of 2014, the company reorganized as Opener Aero and relocated the majority of its operations to Silicon Valley in California (USA) continue its business.

BlackFly V1 uncrewed eVTOL prototype aircraft
The BlackFly V1 is the second aircraft in the BlackFly series, preceded by the Rebel and followed by the BlackFly V2 and BlackFly V3. The first flight of the BlackFly V1 marked an important turning point for the company, which changed title to "Opener" and relocated to Palo Alto, California following the flight. The aircraft was remotely piloted and is an uncrewed aircraft.

As the second prototype in the series, the BlackFly V1 makes several key departures from its predecessor. Unlike the Rebel, the BlackFly V1 was not used as a passenger aircraft. It is wider and longer than the Rebel by five feet, and taller by two. It is also 74 lb (33.6 kg) heavier than the Rebel and capable of carrying a larger payload.

The maximum cruise speed (in the USA) of the aircraft was 62 mph (99.78 km/h) and has a maximum cruise speed (outside the USA) of 100+ mph (160.93+ km/h). The range (with 25% reserve in USA) of the 12+ miles (19.31+ km). The range for outside the USA is unknown. The aircraft has no pilot, has eight propellers, eight electric motors, fixed tandem wings and lands on the belly of the aircraft. There is an open frame where the cockpit would have been for the pilot.

The empty weight of the aircraft is 310 lb (140.6 kg), has a maximum payload weight of 200 lb (90.7 kg) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 520 lb (231.3 kg). The width of the aircraft is 13 feet , seven inches (4.1 meters), has a length of 13 feet, five inches (4.08 meters) and has a height of five feet (1.52 meters). There are fixed landing struts at the bottom ends of each wing to keep the wings safe from hitting any ground surface.

Opener, which is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, provides a timeline on its website. Engineer Marcus Leng (now CEO of Opener) began developing the concept in August 2009, and made what appears to "the first manned flight of a fixed-wing all-electric VTOL aircraft" on Oct. 5, 2011, at his home in Warkworth, Canada in Ontario, 90 miles east of Toronto.

In Canada (unlike the US), ultralight aircraft must be registered. Leng registered three prototype ultralights with Transport Canada under the company name SkyKar, Inc.:

  • The Rebel (serial number 0011) as C-IJQV on Dec. 15, 2011
  • BlackFly (001) as C-IKLT on March 11, 2014
  • BlackFly (002) as C-IKLY on May 6, 2014

After the flight of the BlackFly V1, Leng founded Opener and relocated the majority of its operations to Silicon Valley, "to pursue an unencumbered and accelerated development timeline" with more investment capital. Additional milestones followed:

  • August 2009: Vehicle concept created
  • October 2011: Rebel SkyKar first flight
  • August 11, 2014: BlackFly V1 first flight
  • February 2015: First 2 minute hover with 200 lb (90 kg) payload
  • February 11, 2016: BlackFly V2 takes flight
  • November 2016: First 30 mile flight with 200 lb (90 kg) payload
  • September 2017: 10,000 miles flown with 200 lb (90 kg) payload (minimum 30 mile flights)
  • October 20, 2017: BlackFly V3 first flight of pre-production model
  • March 18, 2018: BlackFly V2 first crewed flight
  • September 2018: 20,000 miles flown with 200 lb (90 kg) payload
  • March 2019: Pre-production manufacturing begins.

In March 2019, pre-production manufacturing began. During EAA Airventure 2019 (July 22-28, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA), Opener trade show booth displays stated: 23,000 plus miles flown (37,015 plus km), over 2,300 flights had taken place, BlackFly can be disassembled and fit into a small truck, you can quickly assemble the aircraft in 30 minutes and fly, it has supercharging which means it can charge to 80% in 25 minutes and it has take-off and landing assistance.

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: eVTOL prototype aircraft
  • Piloting: No pilot
  • First Flight: August 11, 2014
  • Maximum cruise Speed (USA): 62 mph (99.78 km/h)
  • Maximum cruise Speed (Outside USA): 100+ mph (160.93+ km/h)
  • Range (with 25% reserve in USA): 12+ miles (19.31+ km)
  • Takeoff run distance: 3 ft (0.91 m)
  • Landing distance: 3 ft (0.91 m)
  • Maximum climb rate: 1,000 fpm (5.08 m/s)
  • Maximum descent rate: 1,000 fpm (5.08 m/s)
  • Temperature range for safe operations: 32°F to 86°F (0°C to 30°C)
  • Maximum wind speed for safe operations: 25 mph (40.23 km/h)
  • Width: 13 ft ,7 in (4.1 m)
  • Length: 13 ft, 5 in (4.08 m)
  • Height: 5 ft (1.52 m)
  • Empty weight: 310 lb (140.6 kg)
  • Maximum payload: 200 lb (90.7 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 520 lb (231.3 kg)
  • Propellers: 8 propellers
  • Electric motors: 8 electric motors
  • Power source: Batteries
  • Fuselage: Epoxy-impregnated carbon fiber
  • Wings: Fixed tandem wings
  • Landing gear: Lands on the belly of the aircraft. There are also four small fixed struts on the bottom end of each wing to protect the wings from hitting the ground on landing or during takeoff.
  • 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. There are also redundancies in the sub-systems of the aircraft.

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