Eve Air Mobility, a subsidiary of Embraer, is one of the leading companies worldwide that is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Rob Weaver, Regulation and Public Policy Global Lead at Eve, shared updates on their aircraft at the Australian Association for Uncrewed Systems summit on advanced air mobility (AAM) last week. Andrew Moore,co-founder and CEO of AMSL Aero, and Tony Laws, CEO and co-founder of V-Star Powered Lift Aviation, also discussed updates related to AAM aircraft at the summit.
Eve’s vehicle targets routes of 100 km or less within the urban air mobility market. Rob Weaver remarked that while building an eVTOL is a main focus for the company, they are also currently involved in a number of other activities. “We’re accelerating the entire urban air mobility [UAM] industry,” he said.
“We’re using our skills and experience in aviation for other key roles like services and support. Embraer has a global services and support network to support commercial aircraft, and using that knowledge experience is something we want to offer the entire industry, not just operators of Eve aircraft.”
Air traffic management, or ATM, is incredibly important for the emerging UAM industry, according to Weaver. A new global approach to ATM is necessary to integrate eVTOL aircraft into the airspace—especially those that may be remotely piloted or autonomous in the near future. To that end, Eve is developing software for ATM in urban environments, leveraging Embraer’s expertise in providing air traffic management in Brazil.
Eve’s team is also preparing its aircraft for autonomous operations, during which the eVTOL can carry up to six passengers. Embraer and Eve completed a series of flights earlier this year to test new autonomous system technologies. The two companies collected data via piloted helicopters for Embraer’s Autonomous Systems project and worked with partners including Iris Automation, Near Earth Autonomy, and Daedalean.
Weaver shared that in the past year, four customers in Australia have signed letters of intent (LOIs) for up to 150 of Eve’s eVTOL aircraft, including Sydney Seaplanes and Nautilus Aviation. As of the end of August, Eve had more than 2,000 LOIs for its aircraft.
This week, United Airlines signed a conditional purchase agreement for 200 of Eve’s four-seat electric aircraft plus options to buy an additional 200 eVTOLs.
In February, Eve announced a new partnership with Skyports to develop a concept of operations for advanced air mobility in Japan that will support the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB).
“We really need regulators and industry globally having a shared vision of what this industry will look like and how it will work,” said Weaver. “We’ve been able to provide our expertise in air traffic management and eVTOLs to help guide that in Japan.”
Weaver pointed to two other significant updates that came from Eve this summer: the unveiling of a full-sized mock-up of its eVTOL’s cabin and a new wing configuration at the Farnborough Airshow, and the announcement that the team will conduct a UAM simulation using Blade Air Mobility’s helicopters this month. The simulation, which is taking place at a heliport facility in downtown Chicago, will occur over three weeks and will include passenger flights.
Developing a cost-effective model is a priority for Eve, said Weaver: “This is about trying to hit a price point where more people can take air mobility as a mode of transport.” Cost is also an important factor for the company AMSL Aero, according to co-founder and CEO Andrew Moore. “It has to be very efficient, both in terms of the capital to develop the aircraft as well as its efficiency in operating costs,” Moore said.
AMSL’s eVTOL, the Vertiia, will have a maximum range of 250 km via electric batteries, but it is also designed to fly up to 1000 km using hydrogen. “We designed it with a focus on long-range from the outset; short range doesn’t get you very far in Australia,” explained Moore. Although its cruising speed will be 300 km per hour, Moore says that that is just a starting point, and AMSL’s team plans to expand that in the near future.
Because the eVTOL designed by AMSL can operate using hydrogen, the aircraft will be able to use existing heliport infrastructure. “That means we can scale operations—or operate at scale—faster or more efficiently” than companies developing eVTOL aircraft that require charging stations.
AMSL has been flying two sub-scale prototypes for the past five years. Currently, said Moore, the team is working to complete the integration and testing that will lead to their full size prototype’s first flight. That flight testing will start later in 2022 in Australia, he shared.
Another enterprise aiming to take a leadership role in the Australian advanced air mobility industry is V-Star Powered Lift Aviation. V-Star is a new company that provides and operates VTOL aircraft for customers in Australia and Oceania. They also provide training and engineering support.
The company’s fleet currently includes the Leonardo AW609 tilt rotor VTOL aircraft with twin engines; the Dufour Aerospace Aero3—a tilt-wing hybrid-electric aircraft that can take off and land vertically; and XTI’s TriFan 600, capable of both vertical and short take-offs and landings.
Tony Laws, CEO and co-founder of V-Star, shared details about the venture’s partnership with the Swiss company Dufour Aerospace during last week’s summit. Through the agreement, V-Star will gain early access to both manned and unmanned aircraft from Dufour.
Although V-Star has only been a registered company since April, “we have been working for a long time on establishing access to these amazingly versatile aircraft,” said Laws. “We want to be a leading player in this field, not just in Australia but Oceania as well.”
The hybrid aircraft that V-Star offers have 70% lower emissions than traditional turbine aircraft. A hybrid VTOL model also comes with lower operating costs and is ideal for longer-range tourism and regional air mobility applications, Laws noted. The smaller electric aircraft are better suited for routes of 100 km or less.