Who hasn't been a fan of flying cars from Back to the Future? While the movie predicted the future of flying cars back in the 1980s, it was quite hard for people to understand that something like this could be possible. EVTOL, short for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, is a type of aircraft that is nearly related to flying cars. Although different in appearance, it provides the world with the hope of possible air travel just like the ground travel experience.
Urban Air Mobility
Urban Air Mobility is a concept long desired by humans. With the advancement of technology, electric propulsion has also seen some major changes during the recent technological advances. With high-speed motors, long-lasting batteries, and advanced electronic controllers, the concept of UAM is not just a thought anymore.
History of eVTOL Aircrafts
Although the concept of UAM or Air Taxi has recently become popular among the masses, the idea has been pursued for more than a decade. In 2009, NASA first introduced the concept of eVTOL aircraft in the market. The idea became more popular in 2014 when it was introduced during the Transformative Vertical Flight Concepts Joint Workshop. Ever since then, big names in the aircraft industry have adopted the concept & have been pursuing to make the technology their own. Companies like Boeing wed high interest in manufacturing such vehicles that could become the transportation methods of the future.
Additionally, Startups also played and have been playing a major role in developing these technologies to make aerial transportation as common as possible. Uber, a recently popular app that enables people to easily find conveyance, started with publishing a paper on a project called Elevate, which outlined the feasibility of an on-demand aviation transportation system.
Seeing the potential of Uber's Elevate, Joby Aviation acquired it at the end of 2020. Additionally, in 2020. Tetra Aviation won the "disruptor award" for its single-seat design of eVTOL. Furthermore, the company announced its Mk5 personal eVTOL which is expected to launch in 2022. The project will sell as an experimental kit aircraft that can be operated by anyone who has a private pilot license.
Big Names in the Industry
EVTOL aircraft have managed to gather a fair amount of recognition from investors & technology enthusiasts around the world. Many startups including Lilium, Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation have started developing aircraft to make air taxis a reality.
Lilium is one of the few eVTOL pioneers pursuing dual certification from the EASA and the FAA. Since 2015, they have developed, constructed, and tested five generations of technology demonstrators, inviting the rest of the world to watch as they create a new aircraft and flight control system. The Lilium Jet may be customised for a variety of customers and applications, with each configuration providing an unrivalled experience. The most spacious cabin arrangement, with premium club seating, is suited for private flights. The cabin can also be outfitted with six seats for passenger flights or without seats for the zero-emissions logistics sector. The Lilium Jet's exclusive technology is Ducted Electric Vectored Thrust (DEVT), which has been perfected across several generations of aircraft demonstrations. Electric jet engines embedded within the wing flaps increase payload, improve aerodynamic efficiency, and reduce noise while offering thrust vector control to manoeuvre the Lilium Jet through all phases of flight. Traditional jet engines power 95% of commercial a, and this jet is also built on the same principles, but with a lot less complexity. The electric jet engines use a single "stage" rotor/stator arrangement that is powered by a zero-emission electric motor. The Lilium Jet is particularly efficient in cruise flight due to its fixed wings, embedded dispersed propulsion, and lack of a tail.
Joby Aviation has become a popular name in the eVTOL market after it acquired Uber's Elevate. With more than 1000 successful flights, Joby Aviation has gained recognition as a successful player in the eVTOL market. Recently SK Telecom of South Korea has joined hands with Joby Aviation to make air taxis possible in South Korea. Joby had also managed to acquire permission for more flight capacity from FAA recently. With progressing technology, it is fair to assume that they are going to be a successful brand in the eVTOL market.
Archer has also made its name in the eVTOL industry with its advanced prototypes, specifically Maker. Maker is a full-scale electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft which can travel at speeds of 150 mph with a range of 60 miles. Whether you use it for everyday commute or extensive travel, Maker will provide you with an experience like never before. Archer’s eVTOL aircraft has shown zero points of catastrophic failure with multiple operational redundancies. Each propeller has an independent motor making 12 in total, ensuring the highest level of safety. It is also designed to be silent at maximum speeds to account for a smooth experience. In February 2021, we saw an announcement of a new partnership between United Airlines and Archer Aviation in a $1billion deal. The aviation company is planning to build and use its electric-powered eVTOLs as “air taxis” for the urban markets. Archer’s eVTOLs will be developed with 45 d, making it 100 times quieter than a typical helicopter.
Air Taxis are not a myth anymore & with growing advances in technology, they will take over the world sooner than we can imagine. With grooming startups and big names developing the necessary technology to make eVTOL aircraft more efficient, we will see these aircraft function more likely before 2030.