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Pivotal BlackFly V3 (prototype)

 

BlackFly V3 (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 V3 passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft
The BlackFly V3 is the third and latest eVTOL model in the Blackfly series of passenger aircraft. It is preceded by the Rebel, BlackFly V1, and BlackFly V2, and is currently being manufactured for pre-production. The aircraft holds one pilot, has a canopy over the cockpit for excellent views in all directions and has a maximum pilot's height of six 6 feet, six inches (1.98 meters).

The cruise speed of the aircraft (in the USA) is 62 mph (99.78 km/h) and has a cruise speed (outside the USA) of 80+ mph (128.75+ km/h). The range of the aircraft (in the USA) with a 25% reserve is 20 miles (32.19 km). The aircraft has tandem wings and has a total of eight propellers, eight electric motors and is powered by batteries. There are four propellers on each wing.

The empty weight of the aircraft is 313 lb (142 kg), has a maximum payload weight of 250 lb (113.4 kg) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 563 lb (255.4 kg). The fuselage is made from epoxy-impregnated carbon fiber material. The width of the aircraft 13 ft, seven inches (4.1 meters), the length is 13 feet, five inches (4.08 meters) and has a height of height of five feet (1.52 meters). The aircraft lands on the belly of the fuselage. There are fixed landing struts at the bottom ends of each wing to keep the wings safe from hitting any ground surface.

As the model is being utilized for pre-production efforts, the BlackFly V3 is naturally the most polished of its series. Relative to the BlackFly V2, the BlackFly V3 is capable of carrying a payload that is 50 lb (22.7 kg) heavier which constitutes a weight increase of 25% over the prior model. An emergency ballistic parachute was added to this model as a further augmentation to the craft's safety features.

The most important goal for the company is to manufacture a safe aircraft and the aircraft has been designed so the aircraft can be flown by non-pilots. The aircraft has many redundant systems, so if things go wrong during the flight, the aircraft can continue to land.

BlackFly V3 General Information:

  • Tried and tested (as of August 2022): > 4,000 flights flown with payload; > 109,000 propulsion system endurance flight cycles, equivalent to 139 circumnavigations of the earth; > 500,000 propulsion system extreme punch test cycles
  • Fault-tolerant design: Redundant motors, elevons, batteries; Three fail-safe flight systems; Isolated, distributed battery system
  • Ease of operation: Software flight-envelope protection; Return-to-Home button; Demo Flight feature; Soft-landing assist; Geofence-capable; Comprehensive training
  • Simple user interface: Real-time alerts and notifications; Intuitive joystick.
  • Back-up landing system: Emergency ballistic parachute system (BPS)

Opener Aero, 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, Ontario, Canada, 90 miles east of Toronto.

In Canada (unlike the USA), 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 Mar. 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 19, 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). The Opener Aero 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.

Opener Aero also showcased and flew the BlackFly V3 at EAA Airventure (Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA) in July 2022. As of August 2022, the company does not stated on their website when their production models will be available for purchase.

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: eVTOL
  • Piloting: 1 pilot
  • Maximum operator height: 6 ft, 6 in (1.98 m)
  • Cruise Speed (USA): 62 mph (99.78 km/h)
  • Cruise Speed (International): 80+ mph (128.75+ km/h)
  • Range: 40+ miles (64.37 km)
  • Range with 25% reserve (USA): 20 miles (32.19 km)
  • Cruise altitude: Unknown
  • Width: 13 ft, 7 in (4.1 m)
  • Length: 13 ft, 5 in (4.08 m)
  • Height: 5 ft (1.52 m)
  • Takeoff run: 3 feet (0.91 m)
  • Landing distance: 3 feet (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 windy conditions for safe operations: 25 mph (40.23 km/h)
  • Empty weight: 313 lb (142 kg)
  • Maximum payload: 250 lb (113.4 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 563 lb (255.4 kg)
  • Propellers: 8 propellers
  • Electric motors: 8 electric motors
  • Maximum static thrust: 900+ lb (400.2 kg)
  • Power source: Batteries
  • Fuselage: Epoxy-impregnated carbon fiber
  • Window: Canopy over cockpit
  • 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. The aircraft has been made with a safety fault-tolerant design. There are also redundancies in the sub-systems and other parts of the aircraft. The aircraft has an emergency ballistic parachute.

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