UK’s full-size eVTOL aircraft makes first flight

VIDEO: The world is awash with ideas for electrically powered vertical take off and landing air taxis – but a new British company has already designed, built and flown a full-size eVTOL aircraft.

Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace flew its 750kg demonstrator last June at Cotswold Airport under a special permit. The aircraft – essentially a scaled-up drone with four ducted fans – has since flown several more times.

Vertical Aerospace is led by founder Stephen Fitzpatrick who once owned the Manor F1 racing team. Since it started in 2016, the company has grown to employ 28 aerospace engineers and technical specialists.

There’s also influence from F1, as you might expect given Fitzpatrick’s background, with the materials used and construction techniques.

Vertical Aerospace
Four ducted fans provide the propulsion for Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL.

“The lightweight materials, aerodynamics and electrical systems developed through F1 are highly applicable to aircraft, much more so than to road transport,” said Fitzpatrick.

“By putting those technologies in the hands of experienced aerospace engineers, we can build cutting-edge aircraft for the 21st century.”

The aim is to certify an eVTOL aircraft by 2022, though Fitzpatrick admits the battery technology is not yet available to give the performance and range required for a viable commercial air taxi service.

Vertical Aerospace

Comments

  1. This might seem like a very basic question, but what are the advantages of this type of aircraft over a helicopter? Is it cheaper, or faster? Why would a passenger choose to travel in one of these, rather than a helicopter?

  2. “what are the advantages of this type of aircraft over a helicopter?”

    The big difference is that it’s electric. This leads to a few potential benefits, depending on the exact design:

    – Lower carbon emissions (or zero if electricity is generated renewably)
    – Lower fuel costs
    – Less noise
    – Low maintenance costs (few moving parts, less vibration and electric motors are very reliable, although batteries will need replacing)
    – Electric motors are very light/cheap compared to engines (all the weight is in the batteries). This means there’s little downside to making designs with many motors for redundancy/control/reduced noise footprint. These can be made much easier to fly than traditional helicopters because software controls the actual power distribution, you just tell it where you want to go

    Uber produced an interesting white paper on using eVTOL aircraft for transport that looks into things like costs, practicalities, environmental impact etc vs. helicopters and traditional aircraft:

    https://www.uber.com/elevate.pdf

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