Cuberg, a startup battery company?based in Emeryville, California, has verified the performance of its cell-level battery – 369 Watt-hours per kilogram at a discharge rate of C/20.? This was verified in testing at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), with Cuberg cells demonstrating a specific power of 2,000 Watts per kilogram. Cuberg’s announcement highlighted an exceptional combination of specific energy, specific...
Cuberg, a startup battery company?based in Emeryville, California, has verified the performance of its cell-level battery – 369 Watt-hours per kilogram at a discharge rate of C/20.? This was verified in testing at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), with Cuberg cells demonstrating a specific power of 2,000 Watts per kilogram.
Cuberg’s announcement highlighted an exceptional combination of specific energy, specific power, and cycle life in an independent testing and verification process conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. The results, including up to 80% increase in specific energy relative to Li-ion cells of comparable high-power output, represent a major step forward in the performance and maturity of battery technology for the future of electric mobility. Online publication Sustainable Skies has analyzed Cuberg’s results in detail, and the provided charts can be found in their full writeup “Cuberg Batteries – Some Real Numbers“.
While the global market for batteries to power electric mobility is expected to reach?$300B?per year by 20301, increasing power demands are driving Li-ion battery technology to its physical limits on performance and safety. Cuberg’s batteries, based on its breakthrough lithium metal technology, are optimally designed for successful commercialization. The batteries deliver greatly increased range and capacity with competitive cost of ownership under realistic operating conditions. In addition, Cuberg’s batteries use a non-flammable proprietary electrolyte that provides substantial safety advantages over Li-ion batteries.
Critically, Cuberg has achieved these industry-leading results in a pouch cell using technology that capitalizes on the scale and quality of the existing Li-ion manufacturing ecosystem. These strengths will ultimately allow Cuberg to bring next-gen batteries to the automotive market, delivering significant improvements in range and cost while preserving the substantial deployed capital base of Li-ion manufacturing.
“Cuberg’s mission is to deliver next-gen batteries to power the rise of electric mobility, and an essential part of our strategy is to achieve independent verification and transparency of our results,” said?Richard Wang, co-founder and CEO of Cuberg. “We are gratified to receive this verification by INL of the industry-leading performance and reliability of our technology, and excited to be working with our customers to begin full-scale flight testing in their aircrafts in the next year.”
Three key battery performance measures need to be optimized in balance for successful aviation commercialization: specific energy, which allows for longer flight times and ranges at a given weight; specific power output, which enables greater aircraft weights and payload capacity; and cycle life, which impacts cost of ownership. INL’s testing on Cuberg’s 5-Ah (amp-hour) battery cells indicated specific energy of 369 Wh/kg, specific power of 2,000 W/kg, and 370 cycles with C/2 charging before the cells reached end of life at an 80% capacity cut-off. Batteries providing in excess of 350 Wh/kg of specific energy represent a critical threshold for the electric aviation market. Cuberg is the first company to successfully combine this level of energy with high power and competitive cycle life under realistic operating conditions. Full testing results can be seen?here.
Why it’s important: As emphasized by?Liangbing Hu, the Herbert Rabin Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Materials Innovation, Materials Science, and Engineering at the?University of Maryland, “the delivery of highly efficient, cost-effective and safe battery technology at scale is essential to enable the future of electric mobility. Passing the 350 Wh/kg threshold under realistic operating conditions is an important advancement and an impressive achievement.” Cuberg’s announcement represents a major milestone in the advancement of battery performance and maturity for the future of electrified aerial mobility.
- Cuberg’s Battery Produces 70% Increase in Flight Time for Drones
- OXIS Energy to Develop Lightweight Battery Cell for Bye Aerospace eFlyer
Sources // Cuberg Press Release; Sustainable Skies
Bye Aerospace has begun the next phase of its flight test program for its two-seat all-electric eFlyer 2. The latest aircraft built is a technology demonstrator aircraft that will pave the way for the future of electric flight, and the final version eFlyer 2. Bye Aerospace’s mission is to develop innovative and effective zero CO2 electric propulsion systems, along with...
Bye Aerospace has begun the next phase of its flight test program for its two-seat all-electric eFlyer 2. The latest aircraft built is a technology demonstrator aircraft that will pave the way for the future of electric flight, and the final version eFlyer 2.
Bye Aerospace’s mission is to develop innovative and effective zero CO2 electric propulsion systems, along with integrations of structural and mechanical systems and aerodynamic advances. With electric aircraft like the eFlyer 2 moving towards production, the future of electric flight slowly is becoming more clear. This next stage of testing for the eFlyer 2 focuses on identifying an efficient and effective propellor for the eFlyer’s all-electric flight, setting the stage for the propellor dynamics of electric aircraft of all kinds, including eventual all-electric eVTOLs. It’s likely that industry discoveries and innovations being made in these traditional fixed wing electric aircraft (like the eFlyer 2, the magniX?Cessna Grand Caravan, and the Ampaire EEL Electric Aircraft) will eventually make their way into all kinds of aerial mobility aircraft, including vertical-lift electric aircraft and more. For now, Bye Aerospace hopes that?the eFlyer 2 will dramatically reduce operations costs and eliminate C02 emissions within the pilot flight training industry.
Said George E. Bye, CEO of Bye: ““Data from these flight tests will help our engineering team determine the most efficient propeller that will maximize the overall efficiency for the typical flight training syllabus requirement. The prototype Rolls Royce electric motor currently on the eFlyer 2 technology demonstrator has varying torque and a large RPM range with a relatively small size and cross-section compared to a conventional internal combustion engine.? Therefore, more of the propeller length is available to provide thrust across a broad range of RPM.” Mr. Bye concluded by mentioning that multiple iterations of the propellor will be tested over the summer against beneficial and unique electric propulsion criteria required for flight training missions.
Watch a full video summary of Bye’s mission below:
Why it’s important:?Bye Aerospace is one of the world’s top companies pushing forward the electric propulsion and flight industry. With advancements made by Bye and similar electric aerospace companies, overall contributions to eVTOL aircraft such as batteries, aerodynamics, and propulsion technologies will be vast.
uAvionix announced on Friday that it has filed a TSO application for the?tailBeaconX?Mode S and ADS-B transponder. The tailBeaconX “utilizes existing aircraft lighting locations for mounting and access to aircraft power for reduced installation complexity and cost” and is a lightweight, plug and play transponder that has allowed a large portion of the existing General Aviation industry to inexpensively retrofit...
uAvionix announced on Friday that it has filed a TSO application for the?tailBeaconX?Mode S and ADS-B transponder.
The tailBeaconX “utilizes existing aircraft lighting locations for mounting and access to aircraft power for reduced installation complexity and cost” and is a lightweight, plug and play transponder that has allowed a large portion of the existing General Aviation industry to inexpensively retrofit their aircraft with ADS-B In/Out compliant solutions. Now, uAvionix seeks to do the same for aerial operations requiring TSO certification. tailBeaconX features an integrated Mode S transponder with 1090ES ADS-B Out for worldwide travel and flight above FL180 (18,000′).
The tailBeaconX transponder was evaluated by Aireon and NAV CANADA, showing promise toward meeting performance requirements for ATC-quality surveillance data for General Aviation aircraft. “A solution like tailBeaconX will expand the proven safety and operational benefits of ADS-B through a space-based service to the general aviation community,” said Cyriel Kronenburg, Vice President of Aviation Services for Aireon. “We’re pleased to collaborate on these types of innovative avionics solutions with uAvionix as various global ADS-B mandates take effect in the coming months and years.”
uAvionix stated in their press release that the tailBeaconX will be “the first commercially available certified avionics solution developed with the needs of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) in mind”. The extremely light weight of the tailBeaconX (90 gram), coupled with small size, integrated antenna, and low power draw (3 watts), will allow for longer flight times and higher payloads from aerial mobility aircraft since the requirements for integration of the transponder are small.
Upon approval, tailBeaconX will include (4) TSOs:
TSO-C112e Level 2els, Class 1 (Mode S Transponder)
TSO-C166b Class B1S (ADS-B OUT Extended Squitter)
TSO-C145e Beta 1 (WAAS GPS Position Source)
TSO-C30c Type III (Rear LED Position Light)
uAvionix projects that the tailBeaconX TSO and STC certification will be approved during Summer 2020, and carries a price of $2999 as a standalone unit (EFIS control). For roughly $1,500 more, the tailBeaconX can be purchased with AV-30-C?EFIS providing transponder control, Primary Attitude Indicator, Primary Directional Gyro, and Primary Slip indicator, and other features as well. uAvionix also has stated that they’re working on an upgrade program for existing skyBecon/tailBeacon TSO owners. In order to compensate for the small size of the tailBeaconX, a large AML STC will follow.
The race will demonstrate the latest advancements in the Airspeeder’s hovering and maneuvering technology, and hopefully?boost tourism to Coober Pedy, which has seen visitor numbers plunge during the COVID-19 pandemic. To many it may sound futuristic, but international startup Alauda Racing says it will host a full-scale flying car race in remote South Australia before the end of the year....
The race will demonstrate the latest advancements in the Airspeeder’s hovering and maneuvering technology, and hopefully?boost tourism to Coober Pedy, which has seen visitor numbers plunge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To many it may sound futuristic, but international startup Alauda Racing says it will host a full-scale flying car race in remote South Australia before the end of the year. Airspeeder has been developing the cars, which use drone technology to hover and maneuver above ground. The startup’s co-founder, Matt Pearson, said despite the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was a big year for the industry.?“With electric aviation, with the drone industry, with the autonomous vehicle industry boom — all the technology that makes autonomous electric cars possible, are making the electric flying cars industry,” he said in a recent interview.
The Alauda Airspeeder is a small single seater eVTOL designed for racing. According to Pearson, the vehicle is best described as a cross between an F1 car and a racing drone, and is capable of flying up to 124mph. Approximately one year ago, Alauda’s unmanned prototype of the speeder took to the skies at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Sussex, UK. Watch the Alauda video below:
Although Alauda experienced some technical difficulties with the Airspeeder at Goodwood, the Alauda team still plans on debuting races in 2020. Said Pearson, “with early technology, these things happen.” The Alauda team explained that the error, which caused the prototype to briefly lose control, would have been impossible in a manned aircraft.
He also was able to provide more details about what we can expect to see in Coober Pedy later this year and in the near future. The race will be a display for the public, demonstrating two remote-controlled cars being put through their paces. It will be a while however, before the vehicles have drivers in them. Airspeeder has approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to fly large scale, commercial drones, but is yet to negotiate a license to fly people. We’re working on that with the authorities — so not yet, but it is in process and we hope very soon we’ll have that possibility,” Mr. Pearson said.
Why it’s important: Australia has provided impressive support and infrastructure for many aerial mobility startups to begin testing their platforms in a controlled environment. Even Google and Amazon have chosen Australia for their test programs because of fairly advanced regulations. Alauda Racing hopes to capitalize on this opportunity to demonstrate a unique application of eVTOL technology that most have never fathomed possible. As an added benefit, this race is likely to draw tourism to the small town of Coober Pedy. With an extraterrestrial-style landscape, Coober Pedy will make for a thrilling backdrop to watch one of the world’s first flying car races.
Source // ABC News
Airbus has recently released new footage of the CityAirbus eVTOL performing untethered flight at a facility in Donauw?rth, Germany. Watch the footage below. The footage was shared by Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even on his personal Twitter Account. The CityAirbus was quoted as being “a key element in our innovation roadmap in order to develop the techno-bricks necessary for achieving...
Airbus has recently released new footage of the CityAirbus eVTOL performing untethered flight at a facility in Donauw?rth, Germany. Watch the footage below.
The footage was shared by Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even on his personal Twitter Account. The CityAirbus was quoted as being “a key element in our innovation roadmap in order to develop the techno-bricks necessary for achieving sustainable aviation.” Additionally, according to an Airbus spokesperson, the flight in the footage was in line with the previous flight tests, with no setbacks. Interestingly, it was also the first time Evens personally oversaw the flight of the impressive eVTOL demonstrator.?
The CityAirbus project, part of Airbus’ designs to develop a workable and mass-producible commercial electric air taxi service, explores many aspects for Airbus’ future program. The demonstrator features a four-seat, multicopter design, with eight propellers encased within four ducted propulsion units, and a top speed of 75mph. Airbus is also experimenting with integrated technology for autonomous flight.?
Watch CityAirbus’ first untethered flight here.
For more information on the demonstrator, visit our aircraft page here
Why it’s important: As confirmed early summer, Airbus remains committed to the development of the CityAirbus program and air mobility in general. As announced by an Airbus? spokesperson, “Airbus considers new forms of air transport such as UAM [urban air mobility] an opportunity to develop key technologies for the future of VTOL platforms, including electric flight and autonomy.”
Source // @BrunoEven (Bruno Even), Twitter
Vertical Aerospace tweeted it will use Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform to accelerate product development for its Seraph eVTOL prototype. 3DEXPERIENCE is a cloud-based platform which allows aerospace manufacturers to improve collaboration across design, manufacturing, and testing teams while reducing developmental costs across the value stream. This platform has already been implemented with other eVTOL manufacturers among the likes of Joby Aviation....
Vertical Aerospace tweeted it will use Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform to accelerate product development for its Seraph eVTOL prototype. 3DEXPERIENCE is a cloud-based platform which allows aerospace manufacturers to improve collaboration across design, manufacturing, and testing teams while reducing developmental costs across the value stream. This platform has already been implemented with other eVTOL manufacturers among the likes of Joby Aviation. Vertical Aerospace has a team of 100 engineers and counting and this platform will help give a leg up on the competition.
Before the outbreak of #COVID19, @VerticalAero adopted the #3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud. So, even though they are working from home, the team’s mission to revolutionize how people fly is continuing at full speed. Learn how you can do the same: https://t.co/KZN86CPaJ4 pic.twitter.com/yOCdZmPPMl
— 3DEXCITE (@3DEXCITE) June 8, 2020
“At Vertical Aerospace we were fortunate to have moved onto the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on cloud before we were remote working,” said Owen Thompson Cheel, Flight Systems IPT Lead, Vertical Aerospace. “The team has all they need to work from home and by using the platform on cloud we have been able to continue working with virtually no difference in performance. It’s an excellent case for working on the cloud, and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform has allowed us to remain agile and secure without loss of capability, effectively maintaining business continuity.”
Vertical Aerospace will be able to use the cloud-based platform to efficiently deliver its prototype to market while minimizing costs and maintaining quality across the product life-cycle.
“Disruptive innovators like Vertical Aerospace are using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud to advance their compelling vision for sustainable mobility and invent new industries,” said David Ziegler, Vice President, Aerospace & Defense Industry, Dassault Systèmes. “As businesses today must completely rethink the way they work, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud offers the largest portfolio of applications for product design and engineering from anywhere, with a high level of performance and secure, efficient access to data.”
Why it matters: Dassault Systems is known for its contributions to aerospace program development, most notably its CATIA/ENOVIA/SOLIDWORKS product lineups used by major OEMs including Boeing and Airbus. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform leverages 21st century mobility principles with the latest product life cycle product management technology, ultimately lowering the barriers to entry for players in the aerial mobility space.
Japanese eVTOL company SkyDrive announced the conclusion of their 100th corporate sponsorship agreement, announcing a public flight demo sometime this summer. The company has gained 100 Japanese and international corporations, including Toyota, Panasonic, and Sony PCL, in support of the commercialization of air mobility by 2023. SkyDrive is now readying to tackle their next milestone: a manned public flight demonstration...
Japanese eVTOL company SkyDrive announced the conclusion of their 100th corporate sponsorship agreement, announcing a public flight demo sometime this summer. The company has gained 100 Japanese and international corporations, including Toyota, Panasonic, and Sony PCL, in support of the commercialization of air mobility by 2023. SkyDrive is now readying to tackle their next milestone: a manned public flight demonstration in Japan sometime this summer. Further details on the specifics such as date and location are expected to be released in the following months.?
“On occasion, those of us who were pouring our time and energy into Cartivator’s flying car project as volunteers realized the limitations of privately funded development activities and wondered if our target of staging a flight demonstration in the summer of 2020 could be met,” says SkyDrive Chief Executive Tomohiro Fukuzawa, “However, the generous support of our sponsors, which has come in the form of financial assistance, engineering expertise and insights, and human resources, has meant everything to us and enabled us to hang on to our dream and keep our project going. On behalf of the entire team, I would like once again to express my deepest gratitude to all of our sponsors and promise that we will remain fully committed to staging the flight demonstration scheduled for this summer.”
SkyDrive is a Japanese eVTOL company, originally established by the members of CARTIVATOR, a group of aircraft, drones, and automotive engineers coming from a background of working at Toyota. While SkyDrive originally intended to demonstrate their eVTOL at the lighting of the torch at the 2020 Summer Olympics, the company nevertheless intends to show off the capabilities of their flying car sometime this summer.
Why it’s important: Skydrive is on the leading edge of aerial mobility technology in Japan, and following their acquiral of their 100th corporate sponsor as well as the success of their manned flight tests, now look to demonstrate to the public their accomplishments. It remains to be seen how widely the company expands beyond Japan, but Skydrive’s strong funding and progress in testing has drawn attention across the globe.
Source // SkyDrive Public Relations
After a brief pause in flight testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, air taxi company Wisk has resumed flight tests of the Cora aircraft in both the U.S and New Zealand.? Wisk was established in 2019 as a joint venture between The Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation, in collaboration with Air New Zealand. The Cora aircraft itself was originally...
After a brief pause in flight testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, air taxi company Wisk has resumed flight tests of the Cora aircraft in both the U.S and New Zealand.?
Wisk was established in 2019 as a joint venture between The Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation, in collaboration with Air New Zealand. The Cora aircraft itself was originally created by Kitty Hawk, which has now transitioned to working on its latest aircraft, the Heaviside.?As of February 2020, Wisk had signed a partnership with the government of New Zealand to eventually bring Cora’s autonomous air taxi capabilities to the country’s transportation infrastructure. The MoU signed that month allowed Wisk to begin conducting the world’s first full airspace integration trial of an autonomous eVTOL in Canterbury, a large region of New Zealand.
The now-resumed flight tests will evaluate the performance of the aircraft in a real world environment, while collecting data that will help inform the further development, operation, safety features and certification of the Cora aircraft.?Prior to the to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had completed over 1300 test flights to expand the flight envelope, provide data for modeling, improve overall design, and complete procedures to operate the aircraft safely and efficiently.
Says Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk, “The team’s dedication over the past few months has allowed us to remain focused on critical non-flight areas, such as certification, software development, and operations. This has allowed us to maintain momentum during this unique time. But it’s awesome to be flying again.”
Carl Engel, Director, Flight Test for Wisk, comments: “Our first priority has always been safety, both for our employees and in the development of our aircraft. As we return to flight testing, we have implemented a number of procedures and social distancing measures based on best practices and recommendations from local and national health and government organizations.”
Why it’s important:?While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly put a temporary hold on physical flight tests, the team at Wisk was successfully able to use that time to achieve many important goals working from home, focusing on subjects like operations, certification, and critical software. Given that Wisk was able to adjust its development workflow so quickly, it was likely able to reduce a great deal of the negative impact of the pandemic slow-down, and now can resume flight testing without delay.
BAE Systems announced via a press release last week their roll out of innovative progress on the electric propulsion system power controller front. Electric ducted fans, or EDF’s, along with brushless electric DC motors, have become popular among many eVTOL prototypes currently in existence. While many designs finalized on DC motors without the ducted fans, the engine (or propulsor) controller...
BAE Systems announced via a press release last week their roll out of innovative progress on the electric propulsion system power controller front. Electric ducted fans, or EDF’s, along with brushless electric DC motors, have become popular among many eVTOL prototypes currently in existence. While many designs finalized on DC motors without the ducted fans, the engine (or propulsor) controller technology that best regulates and optimizes energy consumption over time will enable a lower direct operating cost for many customers. When cost is amortized over many thousands of flight hours, those savings add up quickly.
BAE’s main controllers are laptop-sized and are purportedly able to manage almost any propulsive devise – small through large. BAE’s value add to the already well developed electronic engine controller market is their investment in?core technologies to reduce the size and weight of their control devices. Their press release state that, as a result of their recent innovative processes, the controllers are now “40 percent smaller and lighter than their original size and weight, but with 10 times the processing power”.
BAE has also added additional cyber security protection measures to their controllers, in order to protect against increasing invisible threats to aviation security. Many aerial mobility companies are developing their propulsion management technology internally, but BAE’s plug and play approach caters to the popular design mantra of sourcing ready to use components in order to create a ready to fly prototype for faster (and arguably cheaper) than a vertically integrated design solution. The future of electric propulsor energy use optimization is crucial considering the projections of the ultimate size of the aerial mobility industry, and the huge efficiency gain and cost reduction from a mere 1% of net change in electricity use.
Why it’s important:?Obsession with optimization is no new concept to the aerospace industry, and the concept of electronic brushless motor controllers designed specifically for aerial mobility aircraft, or hybrid propulsion solutions that require greater integration demands, is a subtle yet crucial detail and fundamental design decision for many UAM designers and manufacturers. Some companies will use plug and play hardware such as BAE’s offerings, while others will select to remain in house and create a tailored solution to their needs. Regardless, expect further reductions in weight and size of these controllers, as well as fundamentally different management architecture for systems that largely rely on more distributed power to achieve greater efficiency.
Source // BAE Aerospace Press Release
Israeli aviation company Urban Aeronautics has partnered with HyPoint in order to develop a hydrogen-powered version of their CityHawk eVTOL. The partnership enables Urban Aeronautics to utilize HyPoint’s unique “turbo air-cooled” hydrogen fuel cell design to replace the existing powertrain which uses jet fuel. The new design of the CityHawk will possess obvious advantages; Lightweight, emission-free, reliable, and powerful, HyPoint’s...
Israeli aviation company Urban Aeronautics has partnered with HyPoint in order to develop a hydrogen-powered version of their CityHawk eVTOL. The partnership enables Urban Aeronautics to utilize HyPoint’s unique “turbo air-cooled” hydrogen fuel cell design to replace the existing powertrain which uses jet fuel. The new design of the CityHawk will possess obvious advantages; Lightweight, emission-free, reliable, and powerful, HyPoint’s fuel cell is ideal for use in a sector of aviation that increasingly favors environmentally friendly aircraft designs.
The CityHawk, a commercial version of the Cormorant, possesses a moderate resemblance to a futuristic car, lacking the wings or propeller arms that would be seen on the frame of a typical eVTOL aircraft. Officially designated as a “fancraft” by Urban Aeronautics, the VTOL takes flight through inconspicuous lift rotors installed at the front and rear, and is able to seat six people, with autonomous piloting.?
The current design of the CityHawk (and Cormorant) requires the use of several turbine engines, of which the power requirements vastly exceed the ability of any lithium battery-based powertrain, which was the main reason why Urban Aeronautics pursued a partnership with HyPoint. A hydrogen fuel cell powertrain possesses both the capability to run the turbine engines while also presenting a much more environmentally friendly alternative to jet fuel. According to Rafi Yoeli, CEO of Urban Aeronautics, “We look forward to collaborating with HyPoint on the integration of the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell systems for eVTOL transportation and the urban air mobility market… As a high-power, 100 percent environmentally friendly fuel, hydrogen is key to the future of eVTOL aircraft.”
Why it’s important: Urban Aeronautics pursuing a hydrogen based fuel source for the CityHawlk allows for them to keep the attractive design of the Cormorant, which possesses one of the smallest ground footprints of any VTOL air taxi design capable of seating four or more people. A completely electric powertrain is currently not feasible with existing battery technology, but the proposed alternative is the next best thing, as it will still allow Urban Aeronautics to vastly reduce their carbon footprint from their design.
Source // New Atlas
Beta Technologies unveiled its newest air taxi design, called the ‘Alia’, this week, when it moved the aircraft prototype from Burlington, Vermont to Plattsburgh, New York. Notably, Beta is one of two companies, along with Joby Aviation, to have been selected by the US Air Force to advance to the next stage of development in Agility Prime. The Alia features...
Beta Technologies unveiled its newest air taxi design, called the ‘Alia’, this week, when it moved the aircraft prototype from Burlington, Vermont to Plattsburgh, New York. Notably, Beta is one of two companies, along with Joby Aviation, to have been selected by the US Air Force to advance to the next stage of development in Agility Prime.
The Alia features four horizontally mounted rotors for vertical lift and a single rear-facing propeller for forward flight, and the entire aircraft is sleek and tapered at the ends, bringing to mind the image of a bird in flight. According to Beta Technologies founder Kyle Clark, the inspiration behind the Alia’s design can be accredited to the Artic tern, well known for its yearly migration from the northern Arctics all the way down to Antarctica, a total distance of about 25,000 miles (40,000 km), a feat that the Alia hopes to eventually match. The design is unique among most eVTOL aircraft; most eVTOLs use tilt-rotor systems where the rotors point up for takeoff and landing, and tilt forward for horizontal flight. Instead, each of the Alia’s rotors will be fixed, and it will mainly rely upon the sizable wingspan and the rear propellor for sufficient horizontal flight. The main advantage of this design is reliability. Fixed rotors will require fewer parts and complications, which allows for quicker certification and less maintenance. Because of this, Beta’s engineers can also optimize their designs without worrying about tradeoffs, according to propulsion engineer Herman Wiegman.
“Our primary objective is to meet our first customer’s mission, reliable organ delivery when and where it’s needed,” Clark says. “We couldn’t have an aircraft that had any possibility of being grounded for repairs due to a complex system.”
Few technical specifications were released at this time, but Beta intends for the Alia to eventually be able to fly a total distance of 250 miles (400 km) while only requiring one hour to charge. The Alia has a wingspan of 50 ft (15 m) and a total takeoff weight of 6,000 lb. (2721 kg). However, the prototype version in its demonstration flight over Lake Chaplain weighed in at only 3800 lb (1723 kg), with components not required for the flight having been stripped from the aircraft. The sheer size of the Alia’s wingspan will also allow for less power output from its rotors, greatly improving the efficiency of eVTOL aircraft. As for its power source, the Alia will use existing battery technology as its main source of propulsion and lift.?
United Therapeutics, the primary client of Beta Technologies, intends to use the Alia as part of implementing an efficient and environmentally friendly distribution system. Additionally, Beta Technologies hopes to expand usage of the Alia by developing an ecosystem where it can charge at locations along its most common flight routes, which could be for any sort of commercial applications, cargo transportation, and air taxis.?
Beta looks to begin testing the transition from vertical to forward flight in the summer of 2020. According to Clark, the purpose of the Alia is to understand its flight characteristics as first a conventional airplane, then a helicopter, and finally as an eVTOL.?
Why it’s important: Beta Technologies work with the Alia is for the development of an ultra efficient flight-control system, avionics, and power management software where Beta can reliably make both urgent transplant organ deliveries to hospitals and send passengers across towns or between cities. The successful development of the Alia could completely change how all other future eVTOL designs are approached.
Source // Wired
After years of intensive research and several successful award-winning electric aircraft models developed since 2007, Pipistrel has achieved a breakthrough feat in aviation history, having type certified the battery powered Velis Electro. Working in tight collaboration with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, whose engagement was essential to reaching this unprecedented milestone, Pipistrel demonstrated that its new Velis Electro achieves...
After years of intensive research and several successful award-winning electric aircraft models developed since 2007, Pipistrel has achieved a breakthrough feat in aviation history, having type certified the battery powered Velis Electro. Working in tight collaboration with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, whose engagement was essential to reaching this unprecedented milestone, Pipistrel demonstrated that its new Velis Electro achieves the highest levels of safety.
Conceived as a fundamental part of the ‘Velis Training System’, the Velis Electro was designed to be simple to operate and maintain, without compromising safety. Employing Pipistrel’s type certified electric engine, the Velis Electro delivers power instantly and without hesitation – using a simplified user interface in a cockpit that maintains the same look-and-feel of its conventionally powered siblings. The reduced number of moving parts dramatically decreases maintenance costs and the risk of malfunctions is further minimized thanks to its built-in continuous health-monitoring system.
This enhanced reliability allows the Velis Electro to have more than double the lifespan of power-train elements in comparison to the previous generation of electric aircraft. The revolutionary power train is entirely liquid-cooled, including the batteries, and demonstrated the ability to withstand faults, battery thermal runaway events, and crash loads as part of the certification process. The overall result of all these breakthrough innovations is a drastic reduction in the operating costs, significantly contributing to the affordability of pilot training.
“The type certification of the Pipistrel Velis Electro is the first step towards the commercial use of electric aircraft, which is needed to make emission-free aviation feasible. It is considerably quieter than other airplanes and produces no combustion gases at all,” said Mr Ivo Boscarol, founder and CEO of Pipistrel Aircraft. “It confirms and provides optimism, also to other electric aircraft designers, that the Type Certificate of electric engines and airplanes is possible. The engine, which Pipistrel type certified separately, is also available to other aircraft OEMs. For Pipistrel, this achievement injects additional motivation for the future eVTOL and multi-seat hydrogen-powered projects. Pipistrel is especially thankful to all our customers for their confidence in our products, which allows us to continue developing these innovative aircraft,” he added.
Mr Dominique Roland, Head of the General Aviation Department at EASA, expressed: “For EASA, the type certification of this aircraft marks a significant dual milestone: on 18th of May 2020 we type certified its engine as the first electric engine – now we have followed up with the first type certification of a plane flying that engine. This was a truly ground-breaking project which has yielded many learnings for the future certification of electric engines and aircraft, undoubtedly a growth area in coming years in line with the aims of environmental protection.
“It should also be noted that this innovative product was, despite the many challenging aspects, certified in less than 3 years, showing the excellent work performed by Pipistrel and the EASA teams. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the certification team was composed of EASA staff, but included experts from the Swiss and French authorities, in order to prepare and facilitate the entry into service of the Velis Electro in these two countries.”
Mr Paolo Romagnolli, Head of Engineering at Pipistrel, highlighted the technical excellence: “The Velis Electro project has been one of those engineering challenges we like at Pipistrel. EASA Type Certificate is an uncompromised affirmation of the safety of the design. Having achieved this with a relatively small team is proof that young, talented, and motivated professionals can bring innovation into reality. Completing the work nobody else has ever done before makes us all very proud of being members of this engineering team.”
Why it matters:?The Pipistrel Velis Electro is the world’s first fully electric airplane ever to receive type certification from EASA. The two-seater, intended primarily for pilot training, is a game-changing aircraft in terms of technological innovations and cost-efficiency. Its EASA certification paves the way for the future of environmentally sustainable, emission-free aviation, particularly in the eVTOL space.
Source: Pipistrel Press Release
While commercial aviation continues to feel the impact of COVID-19, Baillie Gifford signals its confidence in the future of transportation with a $35 million investment in aerial mobility vehicle startup, Lilium. Munich-based?Lilium is an aviation company developing an emissions-free regional air mobility service. It has designed and prototyped the Lilium Jet, a brand-new type of aircraft that will enable it...
While commercial aviation continues to feel the impact of COVID-19, Baillie Gifford signals its confidence in the future of transportation with a $35 million investment in aerial mobility vehicle startup, Lilium.
Munich-based?Lilium is an aviation company developing an emissions-free regional air mobility service. It has designed and prototyped the Lilium Jet, a brand-new type of aircraft that will enable it to deliver regional journeys that are considerably faster than rail or road, yet competitive in price. The demonstrator aircraft first flew in 2019 and is a five-seater, fully-electric aircraft that can take-off and land vertically (eVTOL). Lilium expects to service a sizeable global market demand by connecting communities at a fraction of the cost of conventional high-speed infrastructure, with zero operating emissions.
On Tuesday,?Lilium welcomed respected investment management partnership, Baillie Gifford, as a new investor. Known for their track record of investing in high-impact technology companies such as Amazon, Tesla, Airbnb, Spotify and SpaceX, the partnership has invested $35m in the company, extending the current funding round to more than $275m, and total investment to date to more than $375m.
The news comes less than three months after Lilium confirmed it had received $240m in additional funding from existing investors including Atomico, Freigeist, LGT and Tencent, who led the investment round. Combined, these funds will support the further development of the Lilium Jet as well as underpinning preparations for serial production in Lilium’s newly-completed manufacturing facilities.
Commenting on the new investment, Christopher Delbrück, Chief Financial Officer, Lilium, said: “Baillie Gifford is one of the world’s most influential tech investors and their commitment to Lilium represents a significant vote of confidence in both our physical product and our business case.
“We look forward to working closely with Baillie Gifford as we seek to bring emissions-free, regional air mobility to the market as early as 2025.
“The funds raised during this round give us the security to weather the challenging economic landscape we see around us and we’re grateful to be able to stay fully focused on our mission.”
Commenting on their investment, Michael Pye, Investment Manager at Baillie Gifford, said: “We are delighted to support the remarkable team at Lilium in their ambition of developing a new mode of transport.
“While still at an early stage, we believe this technology could have profound and far-reaching benefits in a low-carbon future and we are excited to watch Lilium’s progress in the years ahead.”
Why it’s important: The aerial mobility industry is proving to be robust in these otherwise turbulent times for the aviation and transportation industries. Lilium, in particular, has boasted strong funding round results, and recently announced that it will resume flight testing?after its employees spent over two months working off-site due to the global impacts of COVID-19.
Source // Lilium Media Release
Airflow, a company founded in 2019 by five former members of the Airbus Vahana Project, just announced its upcoming eSTOL – an electric aircraft capable of taking off and landing within remarkably short runways. STOLs (Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft have been around for many years; typically being used to access remote areas such as clearings in forests or other...
Airflow, a company founded in 2019 by five former members of the Airbus Vahana Project, just announced its upcoming eSTOL – an electric aircraft capable of taking off and landing within remarkably short runways.
STOLs (Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft have been around for many years; typically being used to access remote areas such as clearings in forests or other rural areas where full runways may not be available. Their ability to take off and land quickly, often within 150-300ft, makes them extremely versatile.
Members from the Airflow team believe that many of the cargo transportation goals of the UAM (Urban Air Mobility) movement could be accomplished by electric STOLs at around one third the operating cost. Due to the growing diversity of desired products and destinations that is coming with the rapid growth of ‘same-day’ e-commerce, there is becoming a growing need for middle-mile transportation that can transport items directly between warehouses quickly, without using traditional airports. Airflow believes it can meet this need through a combination of its proprietary aircraft and its accompanying logistics service for sellers of e-commerce products. Other use cases include rural delivery, medical supplies to remote areas, disaster relief, and military applications.
According to Marc Ausman, Founder & CEO of Airflow:
“The demand for same-day e-commerce continues to rise, and we’re building a new low-cost aerial capability to enable that growth. Our approach from the beginning is to focus on a simple aircraft design with well-defined new technology.”
Airflow’s first aircraft features a distributed electric motor propulsion system, a single-pilot set-up with automated pilot assistance, 250 miles of hybrid-electric range, 500lbs of cargo capacity, and an impressive take-off and landing distance of only 150 feet. The eSTOL is simple fixed-wing aircraft, which Airflow hopes will yield a quicker path through certification and development. The team believes that both the certification and development process combined will cost around $200 million USD, vs around a $700 Million price tag for eVTOLs with similar regional air mobility capabilities. Production is expected to begin on the aircraft in 2025.
In addition to their work together at the Airbus Vahana project, Airflow’s founders also held previous experience at companies like?Eclipse Aviation, Northrop Grumman, Airware, Scaled Composites, and even Uber Elevate.
Why it’s important:?The leaders of Airflow come from a depth of experience not just in aviation, but in the newly formed world of urban aerial mobility. Together, they have spotted a niche in this new industry (for middle-mile cargo transport) where capital could be deployed more efficiently through the use of simpler technologies. The new Airflow eSTOL, together with its accompanying logistics service, has extremely high potential in the growing short-distance transportation industry.
Consulting Firm McKinsey & Co published their analysis on the transition from piloted to pilotless aerial mobility aircraft on June 2nd, outlining a proposed four phase progression from the current status quo of completely piloted aircraft to completely autonomous aerial mobility operations. The analysis, compiled by Uri Pelli and Partner Robin Riedel, asserted that the development will mature through these...
Consulting Firm McKinsey & Co published their analysis on the transition from piloted to pilotless aerial mobility aircraft on June 2nd, outlining a proposed four phase progression from the current status quo of completely piloted aircraft to completely autonomous aerial mobility operations. The analysis, compiled by Uri Pelli and Partner Robin Riedel, asserted that the development will mature through these stages:
- No automation or human assistance (current capabilities, where computer systems may assist human pilots by reducing workload and providing safety protections)
- partial and conditional automation, in which pilots provide some control from the ground but onboard automation systems control the majority of activities
- high automation with remote supervised vehicles (one supervisor on the ground monitoring multiple aircraft)
- full automation
It was noted that, while these stages appear discrete, they could overlap, or even blend together, as additional developments occur and the integration of piloted/augmented piloted operations of aerial mobility aircraft is more fully developed.
Additionally, the article paired these four development stages with four major headwinds: the challenges of obtaining the pilot population, training them, and then implementing them at scale, with the knowledge that in a certain number of years, by design, they’ll be rendered obsolete.
The first challenge was the sheer cost of pilots. Given realistic assumptions of operating cost for UAM aircraft, adding a pilot could almost double the cost of any given flight.
Secondly, training and pilot sourcing are difficult. The aviation industry was in a massive pilot shortage prior to COVID-19, and McKinsey’s estimates state that once the eventually return to commercial air traffic operations has reached steady state, “suggests the [aerial mobility] industry could require about 60,000 pilots by 2028, roughly 17 percent of the total number of commercial pilots in 2018”. Almost 20% of the pilot workforce, on top of the existing talent pool, is a very large increase in demand across any industry. However, pilots are also an opportunity to leverage experience gained in providing a comfortable atmosphere for commercial air travel; they would serve as ambassadors for the aerial mobility industry through their interactions with customers. In fact, McKinsey’s article leads directly into the hurdle of a completely new customer experience – one that pilots have the ability to help curate to both reassure passengers and allow them to enjoy the convenience and benefits of commercialized aerial mobility transportation.
Last, and the most commonly cited hurdle, is the aircraft design paradigm. While provisions for manual operation and piloting of aerial mobility vehicles will be required for earlier models, at what cost is either retrofitting these aircraft when pilots are no longer required, or operating them with a spare pilots seat, worth when compared to clean sheet designs and integrations that never intended for a pilot to be in the loop? The challenging reality of certification for UAM aircraft at present means that designs must include pilot provisions now, and likely in the future those provisions may be partially deactivated and the pilot’s seat “converted” to a passenger seat to realize the benefit of another revenue generating station onboard. But then, what to do with pilots? The value proposition moving forward is equally as important for pilots in search of a long lasting career. Transitions to remote operations, or fixed wing aircraft piloting, might need to be flowed out to demonstrate the long term benefits of a career that may only involve 10 years of piloting UAM aircraft, per se.
Why it’s important: Due to the autonomous intent of the aerial mobility industry, the interim flight operations solution (pilots required) can be overlooked easily. McKinsey has identified a few of the key challenges for sourcing the talent required to bridge this gap in public acceptance and certification (the technology gap is virtually non-existent for flight path guidance at present). Additionally, once the talent pool of pilots is obtained, there are secondary benefits to having knowledgeable and professional pilots who may be able to serve as ambassadors to aerial mobility.
Source // McKinsey & Co. Article