eVTOL

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An electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft uses electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically. This technology came about thanks to major advances in electric propulsion (motors, batteries, electronic controllers) and the growing need for new vehicles for urban air mobility (air taxi). Examples are being developed by companies such as Boeing[1] and Airbus, and by NASA.

History[edit]

The concept of eVTOL aircraft emerged in 2011 through the AugustaWestland Project Zero (Italy), the Volocopter VC1 (Germany) and the Opener BlackFly (US).[2] It was officially introduced by AHS International and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2014 during the "Transformative Vertical Flight Concepts Joint Workshop on Enabling New Flight Concepts through Novel Propulsion and Energy Architectures" held in Virginia.[3]

Since then, there has been a significant increase in interest among aircraft manufacturers for eVTOLs, and companies such as Boeing, Airbus and Bell have also worked on the technology:[4]

In addition to these major aircraft manufacturers, startups have been playing an important role in the development of these air vehicles and had sometimes been leaders in technological advances.[6]

Uber published a paper on a project called Elevate co-authored by Jeff Holden, Nikhil Goel, and Mark Moore.[7] The paper outlined the feasibility of an on-demand aviation transportation system. That document, along with subsequent annual Elevate summits the company hosted from 2017 to 2019, helped advance the concepts of eVTOL aircraft and urban air mobility (UAM) from a science-fiction concept to a potential aerospace sector pursued by dozens of development projects.[8]

In December, 2020, Uber's Elevate was acquired by Joby Aviation.[9] Upon acquisition, Joby CEO JoeBen Bivert said, "The team at Uber Elevate has not only played an important role in our industry, they have also developed a remarkable set of software tools that build on more than a decade of experience enabling on-demand mobility."[10]

In 2020, Tetra Aviation won the "disruptor award" at the GoFly personal flight contest for its single-seat eVTOL. In 2021,the company announced its Mk5 personal eVTOL that it expects to deliver in 2022. It incorporates 32 vertical lift rotors distributed across long, thin front and rear wings, along with a rear pusher prop for cruising. It uses a mostly aluminum frame, with carbon-fiber/aramid-reinforced polymer bodywork. The craft is 8.62 m (28.3 ft) wide, 6.15 m (20.2 ft) long and 2.51 m (8 ft 3 in) high. The battery pack holds 13.5-kWh. Empty weight is 488 kg (1,076 lb) and hosts an up to 79 kg (174 lb) pilot. The vehicle features at least three flight controllers, driving 32 vertical propellers in the case of motor or flight controller failure, with a parachute in the event of total failure. The plane is to be sold as an experimental kit aircraft that requires only a private pilot license.[11]

In 2021, Urban eVTOL announced the Leo, a 3-seat, 250 mph (400 km/h), 300 mi (480 km) vehicle. It hosts 16 40-cm diameter, 10-kw ducted fans for vertical lift, and 6 28 cm diameter, turbine-bladed rear engines for horizontal thrust. The wing is a double box-wing design. The intent is that it be small enough to park in a standard automobile space. The split battery system holds 66-kWh. A ballistic parachute is included. It has yet to fly.[12]

Agility Prime[edit]

Four American companies have military airworthiness through the US military's Agility Prime program: Joby Aviation, Beta Technologies, Lift Aircraft, and most recently Kitty Hawk, whose Heaviside aircraft was accepted in July 2021.[13]

SPACs[edit]

A number of eVTOL companies adopted a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to become a public company, including Archer, Joby, Lilium, and Vertical.[14] The first was Archer Aviation, who simultaneously announced a $1,000,000,000 order of 200+ aircraft from United Airlines in February 2021.[15] Archer was also the first to publicly reveal its Maker aircraft in-person that year.[16]

Orders[edit]

Vertical Aerospace announced pre-orders for 1,000 eVTOLs in June 2021, including from American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and aircraft lessor, Avolon Holdings.[17]

Technology[edit]

Flight mechanisms[edit]

Many designs operate without wings. Multicopters typically use radial arms to host the motors/propellers, such as the Volcopter 2X.

Vectored thrust designs use fixed wings with pivoting motors, such as the Archer Maker,[18] Lilium Jet, Joby S4[19] or Vertical Aerospace VA-X4. Another approach to thrust vectoring is to use flaps to divert air coming from a horizontal motor downward to create lift. Craft is also notable for its box wing that is attached to the bottom of the fuselage in the front and the top of the fuselage in the back, presenting a diamond shape when viewed from above. The design includes a turbine generator for increased range.[20]

Tilt-wing configurations pivot the entire wing along with its attached motors like Dufour Aerospace.[21]

Lift and cruise systems use one set of motors for vertical flight and another set for cruising, such as Beta Alia.[22]

PteroDynamics uses a folding wing design that allows easy storage land transport of the vehicle. Takeoff occurs with the wings in the folded position, with an in-flight transition to fully extended.[23]

Hybrid designs employ some fixed and some tilting motors, as shown by Archer Maker,[24] Vertical Aerospace VA-1X,[25] and Wisk Cora.[26]

Applications[edit]

Civil use[edit]

Most of the civil eVTOL aircraft are designed for urban air mobility, their typical roles are:

Air Taxi[edit]

Volocopter 2X

Many eVTOL's concept are for Air Taxi application. For instance, Pipistrel, an Uber Elevate partner, is working on the Pipistrel 801, a 5 seats air taxi.[27] Another example is Volocopter, which proposed its air taxi service called VoloCity, based on the Volocopter 2X.[28]

Medical assistance (EMS)[edit]

In 2020, JumpAero announced it was working on a small, one-seater eVTOL aircraft to allow the rapid deployment of emergency services. This type of vehicle is not a replacement for land vehicles or helicopters, but a new tool that, thanks to the electric motor, is faster than the others.[29]

In 2020, the Canadian Air Mobility consortium studied the benefits of eVTOL for direct hospital-to-hospital transportation of patients, organs and drugs.[30]

Personal[edit]

Personal eVTOL aircraft have been created to introduce electric flight into recreational aviation.

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)[edit]

Unmanned Multicopter were the first aerial vehicle to appear in the eVTOL category. First used for research and development, they are now considered as full-fledged aircraft.[2]

Delivery[edit]

The Google-owned company Alphabet has been offering an eVTOL UAV delivery service since 2020. Their drones are able to fly up to 100 km and carry up to 1.5 kg.[31] Amazon Air and UPS are two others companies using drone delivery .[32] A German aerospace company called Wingcopter in collaboration with UNICEF has also delivered vaccines in Vanuatu in 2018.[33] In 2020 wingcopter eVTOL drone was used to deliver COVID-19 test kits to Isle of Mull.[34]

Wingcopter 178 HL on a vaccine delivery flight in Vanuatu.

Heavy-lift unmanned air vehicles included companies such as Sabrewing Aircraft Company Sabrewing Rhaegal, Elroy Elroy Air Chaparral and Pipistrel have unveiled heavy-lift cargo drones, with the Sabrewing aircraft having a capacity to carry a payload of up to 5,400 pounds in a vertical take off scenario.

Military[edit]

In April 2020, the USAF announced $25 million-worth funding of eVTOL projects for development in 2021.[35][36] On August 20, 2020, United States Air Force (USAF) held a demonstration flight of an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. It was the first time that a manned eVTOL aircraft took flight under USAF Agility Prime programme.[35]

Certification[edit]

Europe[edit]

Since 2018, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been working on the certification of such aircraft.[37] In July 2019, they published the SC-VTOL-01 : Special Condition for VTOL aircraft. This document established the safety and design objectives for VTOL aircraft. It includes a special section for eVTOL.

United States[edit]

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a study in 2009 on general aviation recommendations for the next 20 years.[38] In particular Part 23-Amendment 64 includea eVTOL.[39]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b "eVTOL Timeline". evtol.news. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
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  4. ^ "The eVTOL Industry in Transition". evtol.news. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  5. ^ "Paris Air Show: the race for cleaner skies". RFI. 2019-06-21. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  6. ^ O'Connor, Kate (12 July 2018). "Opener Reveals Ultralight eVTOL". AVweb. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  7. ^ Goel, Nikhil. "Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation" (PDF). Uber Elevate.
  8. ^ Brian Garrett-Glaser (December 3, 2020). "Uber reportedly in talks to offload Elevate to Joby Aviation". eVTOL.com. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
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  16. ^ Andrew Hawkins (June 11, 2021). "Air taxi startup Archer shows off small electric aircraft but no flight test".}
  17. ^ Crystal Tse, Mary Schlangenstein, and Siddharth Vikram Philip (June 10, 2021). "Vertical Wins American, Avolon Orders, Plans to Go Public". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 3, 2021.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "Archer's Maker Aircraft". www.archer.com. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  19. ^ "Joby Aviation | Joby". www.jobyaviation.com. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
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  26. ^ Blain, Loz (2020-02-05). "Wisk announces autonomous eVTOL air taxi service trial in New Zealand". New Atlas. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  27. ^ "Pipistrel Unveils eVTOL Concept | Flying Magazine". web.archive.org. 2018-05-13. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  28. ^ "Volocopter kicks off pre-sales for its first air taxi flights — with a wait time of 2-3 years". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  29. ^ "Jump Aero". evtol.news. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  30. ^ "Searching for Early Use Cases for eVTOL Aircraft". Aviation Today. 2020-08-01. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  31. ^ "Drone delivery lands in Queensland's south-east". www.9news.com.au. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  32. ^ "After Alphabet's 'Wing', Amazon's 'Prime Air' gets US approval to deliver items through drones". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  33. ^ "Vanuatu awards international drone companies with commercial contracts for vaccine delivery". www.unicef.org. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  34. ^ "Wingcopter drone delivering COVID-19 test kits to Isle of Mull". Wings Magazine. 2020-05-27. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  35. ^ a b Reim, Garrett (2020-08-24). "US Air Force leaders watch first Agility Prime eVTOL demonstration". FlightGlobal. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  36. ^ Garrett-Glaser, Brian (2020-08-25). "U.S. Air Force Leaders Witness Manned eVTOL Demonstration by LIFT Aircraft's HEXA". Aviation Today. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  37. ^ "EASA SC-VTOL". evtol.news. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  38. ^ "Part 23 - Small Airplane Certification Process Study" (PDF). US Federal Aviation Agency. July 2009. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  39. ^ "EASA Releases Next Piece of Regulatory Guidance for Electric Air Taxis". Aviation Today. 2020-05-26. Retrieved 2020-09-23.

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