In the short space of 3 years we’ve seen urban air mobility (UAM) develop from a concept to eHang promising the first electric vertical takeoff & landing (eVTOL) air taxi service at the end of 2019. The Vertical Flight Society, which I’m privileged to also write for, just reported that it now has 200 eVTOL aircraft in its database.
200 eVTOL Programs Tackling UAM
Perhaps the greatest human feats are those that seem impossible. Electric VTOL aircraft are up there in terms of stretching the capacity of lithium battery technology. But it is happening, as it has happened with cars, bicycles, and now more and more boats. And after all, if 3 men made it to the moon and 2 walked its surface using the equivalent of a modern pocket calculator, flying eVTOL aircraft and electric conventional airplanes must be fairly easier to handle.
I visited Ampaire a week ago and was impressed by how far that company has come and also the unique energy and culture within the company. And It is not the only one. Jaunt Air Mobility already has its own deeply ingrained culture and has done an amazing job. Pipistrel has perhaps the most established electric aviation culture. And many more are on the scene with promising features and executive teams.
In total, 200 fairly different eVTOL teams think their products will soon be ready to take to the skies, or hope so. The market has come about in a very short few years, something unheard of in the aviation world.
Is it that much different from the automotive world? Not at all. The pace has exponentially quickened, leaving unsuspecting laggards with the need to use heavy-handed communications tactics to slow down fast-paced startups.
VFS Adds 200th eVTOL To Database
The Vertical Flight Society just added the 200th eVTOL aircraft concept to its online World eVTOL Aircraft Directory. It as been exciting watching the directory grow recently. Started in 2017, the directory aimed to become the world’s most “comprehensive compendium of electric and hybrid/electric-powered VTOL.” It tracks aircraft developed by aerospace companies, entrepreneurs, and inventors around the globe.
Mike Hirschberg, VFS Executive Director, told CleanTechnica: “We recognized in 2013 that there was a rapid convergence of technologies — including advances in electric motors, batteries, power management systems, fly-by-wire flight controls, and lightweight composite structures — that would enable what we call the Electric VTOL Revolution.”
The VFS held the world’s first technical meeting on eVTOL in 2014 and today the Society’s 7th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium will be held in Silicon Valley this January where we count on being there for you. Hirschberg further added “Electric VTOL is one of the most exciting developments in aviation since the advent of the helicopter more than 75 years ago.”
Thousands of people are now engaged in eVTOL aircraft development technology, including more than 60% of the VFS’s corporate members. It’s safe to say that the electric VTOL revolution has captured the attention of the world’s leading aerospace, technology, automotive, ridesharing, and distribution companies, as well government agencies, militaries, and academia.
“The advent of distributed electric propulsion (DEP) has also led to radical new eVTOL aircraft configurations that don’t resemble traditional fixed-wing aircraft or rotorcraft and will provide developers with exciting new opportunities to radically reduce the operating cost, noise and complexity of vertical flight,” said Hirschberg.
The Society compiled the World eVTOL Aircraft Directory in late 2016 with only a half-dozen electric-powered VTOL aircraft. The term “eVTOL” was only used by a small segment of the aerospace community. The free World eVTOL Directory is updated daily and features more than 200 articles and news items hosted on eVTOL.News.
Jim Sherman, who recently became VFS Director of Strategic Development, said: “The Vertical Flight Society’s role is to help these companies, engineers and inventors overcome the many barriers to commercial success, which include technology, regulations, infrastructure, air traffic management and system safety. We do this through the benefits of membership, but also by holding conferences and workshops to increase understanding and collaboration in this nascent field.”
The VFS will host its first workshop on defining the challenges of eVTOL aircraft from Sept. 10–12, 2019, at the US Navy Memorial Visitors Center in Washington, D.C. This 3-day meeting will identify the core elements needed to support this growing industry, focusing on infrastructure, air traffic management, and system safety. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), ASTM International, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), SAE International, and the newly founded Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI) are actively engaged.
The electric aviation revolution reminds me of the same rEVolution that happened roughly around 15 years ago on land. It was soon followed by the maritime industry and now UAM. Of all the conversations I’ve had with eVTOL & eCTOL key players, one constant remains: People think eVTOLs & eCTOLs are decades away. They are not. They are flying today and the aviation world is quickening its introduction. Maybe a positive aspect of those horrendous Boeing 737 MAX crashes is the realization that an overhaul is needed to the way businesses are run and their unhealthy relationships with our elected representatives. As Steve Hanley correctly said: Adults need to step up.
Nicolas Zart also contributes to VFS and eVTOL.News.