eVTOL and the Future of Business Flying (Part Two)

In this three-part series, Fabrizio Poli takes a good look at the electrical Vertical Take-Off & Landing (eVTOL) market, similar flying machines, and how they fit into the future of business flying.

Fabrizio Poli  |  26th October 2021
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    Fabrizio Poli
    Fabrizio Poli

    Fabrizio Poli is Senior Consultant at Orville Aviation. He is also an Airline Transport Pilot. Mr. Poli...

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    Joby Aviation's eVTOL test craft on the ground

    Previously, we considered some of the similarities when it comes to eVTOL development with the Very Light Jet (VLJ) craze at the start of the millennium. We also discussed where eVTOLs might fit into the market once the leading projects in development overcome the many barriers to certification.

    With hundreds of eVTOL programs being developed, which are the most interesting? Despite a current lack of information on prices and operating costs, we undertake to explore a few promising eVTOL projects in this and the next article…

    Joby Aviation

    With over $800m investment from Toyota and Uber, Joby Aviation’s eVTOL carries one pilot and four passengers across a range of 150 miles.

    In 2020, Joby Aviation agreed to a "G-1" certification basis for its aircraft with the FAA, laying a clear path to certifying the aircraft for commercial flights. The US Air Force also granted its first ever eVTOL airworthiness approval to Joby as part of its Agility Prime program.

    In July 2021 Joby completed the longest test flight of an eVTOL to date: Its unnamed full-sized prototype aircraft concluded a trip of over 150 miles on a single charge. The prototype spent more than an hour and 17 minutes in the air and covered 154.6 statute miles on a single battery charge, traveling along a predefined circuit.

    While the test flight was remotely piloted by Joby’s Chief Test Pilot, Justin Paines, the company plans to have pilots in the aircraft when it opens its ride-sharing service for customers. With over 1,000 hours of flight testing at the time of writing, Joby is on-track to achieve FAA certification by 2024.

    Meanwhile, Joby Aviation and car park operator Reef Technology have signed the first official eVTOL/car park collaboration. Reef Technology owns more than 5,000 sites in “all key metropolitan areas in the US”.

    The partnership intends to turn car parks into “mobility hubs” – places where cross-town and inter-city eVTOL flights can connect with public transport, ride-sharing operations, micro-mobility options like scooters and ebikes, and car parking – catering to what's expected to be a shrinking number of people owning their own automobiles.

    More information from www.jobyaviation.com

    Archer Aviation: Maker

    Maker is the full-scale eVTOL aircraft of Archer Aviation that is capable of traveling over 50 nautical miles. Whether commuting or exploring, Maker will allow passengers to have “transformative travel experiences”.

    The aircraft feature redundant batteries and motors to preserve flight in any situation, Archer says. This redundancy allows them to fly safely regardless of any unforeseen circumstances. Its 12 wing-mounted rotors - six on the leading edge, which appear to be tiltable, and six on the trailing edge - are powered by six independent battery packs totaling 100hp (75kwh).

    The aircraft is built to tolerate an entire battery pack system failure or two motor failures without compromising safety. Maker has a top speed of 126kts and a range of 51.8nm (96km); flying one pilot and four passengers. 

    While on the ground, the batteries will be “fast-charged” in about 10 minutes and the aircraft is designed to complete up to 40 flights every day.

    Archer's has gone for a luxury ergonomic feel for its interior aircraft design. With ample leg space and a 270 degree view thanks to its wrap-around window, a large 13-inch touchscreen interface displays flight information and entertainment options.

    United Airlines has recently announced that it will invest more than $1 billion in Archer Aviation, and is looking at operating over 200 Archer Maker’s across the United States. The airline estimates that flying one of Archer’s eVTOLs between Hollywood and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50%, per passenger.

    Coincidentally, Los Angeles is one of the first cities in which Archer plans to launch its fleet, and is one of United’s largest hubs.

    More information from www.archer.com

    Lilium: The Lilium Jet

    The Lilium Jet is an eVTOL designed and manufactured near Munich, Germany. The Jet uses swiveling ducted fans to provide vertical thrust for take-off and landing. These same fans then slowly rotate towards rear facing as the Jet accelerates and converts to its forward flight mode.

    The eVTOL consists of a rigid winged body with 12 flaps, each one carrying three electric jet engines. Lilium Jets require no gearboxes, no foldable or variable pitch propellers, no water-cooling, and no aerodynamic steering flaps, all of which combines to reduce weight, allowing the battery power to be used for longer flights.

    Moreover, the Lilium Jet can provide differential thrust from the engines in cruise flight, and no stabilizing tail is necessary. The design of the electric engines ensures a very low drag coefficient in cruise flight, leading to a higher speed and longer range.

    Ultimately, the energy consumption per seat and kilometer becomes comparable to an electric car – but the Jet is three times faster.

    The five-seater version has a 186 mile range at 187 mph, and is propelled by 36 ducted fans. However, Lilium recently announced an $830m IPO merger with Qell Acquisition Corp which will fund the development of a seven-seat eVTOL aircraft, with Lilium confirming that the series production Lilium Jet, due to enter commercial service in 2024, will have two more seats than the current five-seat technology demonstrator. It will offer a 155 mile range, but keep a similar cruising speed to the five-seat model.

    And, Lilium has signed a deal with serial aviation entrepreneur, David Neeleman’s Brazilian airline, Azul – the largest domestic airline in Brazil in terms of cities served and daily departures. Each Lilium Jet will cost Azul roughly $4.5m.

    John Rodgerson, CEO of Azul, said in a statement that Azul’s brand, route network and loyalty program will help to “create the markets and demand for the Lilium jet network in Brazil.”

    With ongoing flight testing underway, Lilium is seeking concurrent certification for its seven-seater Jet from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This will be completed under the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA).

    More information from https://lilium.com 

    Next time we will look at some other players in the eVTOL market and see what other news this fascinating new sector of has in store for us. Stay tuned…

    Read eVTOL and the Future of Business Flying (Part One)

    Read eVTOL and the Future of Business Flying (Part Three)

    Find out more from www.orvilleaviation.com

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