Vertical Aerospace Ltd.
Bristol, England, United Kingdom
In 2016, Vertical Aerospace Ltd. was founded by Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of OVO Energy, with the vision of decarbonizing air travel using the best technology from the aviation, energy and automotive industries.
On Oct. 16, 2019, the Bristol, UK-based startup, Vertical Aerospace, Ltd., announced it had built and flown the world's first "electric air taxi capable of carrying 250 kg (550 lb)". The VA-X2 prototype, formerly known by the named Seraph, completed its maiden flight at Llanbedr Airfield in Wales on Aug. 22, 2019. In October 2019, Vertical Aerospace had 70 employees and was actively hiring around 20 engineers, technical experts and operations personnel. As of March 24, 2021 the company has 120 employees.
According to Vertical Aerospace's press release, the VA-X2 follows the successful flight of Vertical Aerospace’s first full-scale VA-X1 (proof of concept) in May 2018, the UK’s first electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to be granted flight permission by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Vertical Aerospace says it "is working closely with global aviation regulators, including EASA, to achieve certification for commercial flight."
The company states the VA-X2 was built to test new technologies and systems for integration into Vertical Aerospace’s upcoming passenger model, due to be unveiled next year. The aircraft can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h (50 mph). Vertical says that VA-X2 "features a unique passive cooling system and a customisable design, meaning the aircraft can be made larger or smaller, fitted with wheels or floats to facilitate water landings. With the Seraph (now VA-X2), Vertical Aerospace’s team have developed concepts from their first aircraft and built in capabilities which will be critical for eVTOL aircraft seeking certification from aviation authorities."
Working closely with global aviation regulators, including EASA, Vertical Aerospace will begin with piloted air taxi services on city-to-city routes. Over time, as the technology and regulatory framework develops, it will expand the number of chartered routes served, introduce elements of autonomy, and ultimately, make completely on-demand air taxis a reality. The company has already begun the certification process for its next model, a passenger aircraft due to be unveiled next year.
Vertical Aerospace press release, Oct. 17, 2019
For a timeline comparison of first flights, the company's first full-scale VA-X1 eVTOL aircraft had four propellers, could carry up to four passengers and first flew indoors (tethered) on Aug. 25, 2017 at Cotswold Airport in Kemble, Gloucestershire, England. The same aircraft's first unmanned free flight (untethered) took place on June 6, 2018 at the Cotswold Airport in Kemble.
The VA-X2 eVTOL full-scale prototype aircraft completed its first free unmanned flight at Llanbedr Airfield in Wales on Aug. 22, 2019 and has flown over a dozen times up to October 2019. It could hold a pilot and two passengers but this prototype eVTOL has no seats. The eVTOL aircraft has 12 propellers and 12 electric motors. Having more propellers provide more lift and redundancy for the aircraft. For example, if one or four propellers stopped working, the aircraft can continue to fly safely and make a safe emergency landing.
The VA-X2 eVTOL is made of lightweight carbon fiber which helps increase payload, range and allows its design to be as aerodynamic per their engineer's requirements. It has a specialized cooling system using air from the propellers to cool its radiator system allowing the aircraft to fly in more types of weather conditions.
Today is another major milestone on the path towards carbon free flight. One year ago, we flew a full scale electric VTOL aircraft, the UK’s first.
Today, we’re revealing flight footage of our second full scale prototype, the Seraph (now the VA-X2), an air taxi prototype capable of carrying 250 kg. Air travel is one of the worst contributors to climate change and among the slowest sectors to decarbonise. Our mission at Vertical Aerospace is to make personal, on demand and carbon free flight a reality.
—Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO, Vertical Aerospace press release, Oct. 17, 2019
The purpose of the VA-X2 eVTOL is to test and understand how all components and software work in the real world allowing the company to use this knowledge and apply it to their upcoming passenger model, which is expected to fly in the second half of 2020 and will look substantially different than the VA-X2. The next model is planned to be the first production model — unveiled in August 2020 as the Vertical Aerospace VA-X4 — and will include a pilot, passengers, wings and room for luggage. The company completed preliminary design review in late January 2020.
The next passenger eVTOL's capacity will allow one pilot and four passengers, use fly-by-wire technology, have a composite fuselage, and allow customization of the landing gear allowing the purchase of either skids, wheels or flotation landing gear as required by the customer.
Vertical Aerospace also announced in October 2019 the acquisition of MGI Technologies, a Formula 1 engineering design, R&D, and production company which can design and rapid-build in-house accurate lightweight composite fuselages, including crash and fatigue analysis, aerodynamics testing and much more.
We have long believed that the technologies and approaches from Formula 1 could be applied to a range of engineering challenges. Vertical Aerospace’s vision provides a fantastic outlet for our experience and a unique opportunity to shape the future of flight.
— Mike Gascoyne, CTO of Vertical Advanced Engineering , Vertical Aerospace press release, Oct. 17, 2019
This acquisition allows Vertical Aerospace to take a different approach to designing and building eVTOL urban aircraft. While mainstream aircraft manufactures might take a five to 10 year lead time to go from a clean-sheet design to a production aircraft, the MGI team can work at an extremely fast and high quality pace which you normally don't see in the aerospace industry.
For example, the company makes new Formula 1 race cars each year and they see what works and what doesn't and then move forward with the best design possible for the client. MGI Technologies has a history of working with the motorsport industry, aerospace industry, automotive industry and the marine industry. They are highly qualified engineers and specialists who will bring a fresh look and designs while working together along with the entire Vertical Aerospace team to create the best eVTOL aircraft that current technology allows.
Vertical Aerospace is current working on how to scale up from making prototypes to designing and building a manufacturing line. The current plan is to focus on being an eVTOL manufacturing company and at this time they are not planning to operate an air taxi business. According to the company, "Vertical Aerospace is building technology to revolutionize how people fly, with the ultimate aim of making intercity air travel personal, on-demand and carbon free."
- Aircraft type: eVTOL prototype uncrewed multicopter
- Piloting: Remote piloting, no autonomous avionics. It will not be piloted by a person and does have a flight controller for stability.
- Capacity: No passengers and no seats. There are no plans to fit the aircraft with seating. If fitted with seats, could hold one pilot and two passengers.
- Maximum speed: 80 km/h (50 mph)
- Dimensions: 6 m wide X 8 m long X 3 m high (12 ft, 8 in X 26 ft, 3 in X 9 ft, 11 in)
- Payload weight: 250 kg (550 lb)
- Power: Electric/Batteries. The batteries are located in the roof of the aircraft.
- Propellers: 12 propellers, counter-rotating, located near the top of the fuselage
- Electric motors: 12 electric motors
- Windows: Wrap around windows providing excellent views to the left, right and forward, with the window extending down on the sides of the aircraft, to the left and right floor boards.
- Doors: Two side doors which are working doors
- Air intake: Above the cockpit
- Cooling system: Air cooled
- Luggage compartment: None
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
- Landing gear: Fixed skid-type landing gear
- Safety features: Electric batteries, electric motors and small propellers are a much safer aircraft because there are exponentially less parts, using more reliable parts such as electric motors and batteries which making electric aircraft not only less complex but makes them more reliable then their complicated multiple-parts petroleum fueled engines and complicated multiple-parts transmissions. Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft.
- Vertical Aerospace website
- Vertical Advanced Engineering website
- Vertical Aerospace Ltd. Facebook
- Vertical Aerospace Ltd. Twitter
- Vertical Aerospace Ltd. Instagram
- Vertical Aerospace Ltd. LinkedIn
- Article: Vertical Aerospace Opens Up, Vertiflite, January/February 2019
- Article: UK’s Vertical Aerospace Flies More Advanced eVTOL Prototype, Aviation Week (requires subscription), Oct. 15, 2019
- Video: Vertical Aerospace | Seraph | Flight 2019, Vertical Aerospace, Oct. 15, 2019
- Article: Vertical Aerospace reveals its latest eVTOL, Seraph, eVTOL, Oct. 16, 2019
- Press Release: World first: Vertical Aerospace flies electric air taxi capable of carrying 250kg, Vertical Aerospace, Oct. 17, 2019
- Article: Vertical Aerospace Flies Seraph, eVTOL News, Nov. 4, 2019
- Article: Vertical Completes Winged eVTOL Design, Seeks Funding, Aviation International News Online, Jan. 30, 2020
- Article: Vertical Aerospace Set To Unveil Fixed-wing eVTOL Design, Aviation International News Online, Aug. 10, 2020
- Article: Why Vertical Aerospace thinks F1 know-how will put it in pole position, Flight Global, Mar. 24, 2021