Since coming out of stealth nearly a year ago, Israel-based eVTOL company Air said it has completed multiple tests with its Air One personal eVTOL aircraft, including successful drop testing to ensure the aircraft’s structural integrity, multiple propulsion tests, and a series of electronic and stability tests.
The company said its aircraft has now taken off for the first time in Megiddo, northern Israel, on June 21 when it completed its first hover test flight. The 1,914-pound (868-kilogram) aircraft has since carried out multiple hover flights, with plans to expand its flight envelope testing throughout the year.
Air said the aircraft’s systems functioned as designed, and although the company refrained from sharing test data this early in the flight test program, Air told eVTOL.com that its aircraft’s energy use during the hover flight was “slightly better than predicted.”
“We will be running some analysis on the data collected during the tests and will have official results after completing the full flight testing,” said Rani Plaut, CEO and co-founder of Air.
Air One is powered by a lithium-ion battery system that’s divided into four isolated compartments. With a total capacity of 74 kilowatt-hours, the company claims its current prototype is able to provide a range of between 60 to 85 miles (97 to 137 kilometers) on a single charge at full payload.
“However, we are optimizing both aerodynamic and energetic performance for Air One to offer a range of more than 100 mi [161 km], including reserves [and] accounting for one take-off and one landing,” Plaut said.
The personal aircraft is targeting top speeds of 155 miles per hour (250 kilometers per hour), and Air claims its Air Once will be capable of landing on any flat surface with a 551-lb (250-kg) payload. It can also be stored in most garages and driveways, the company said.
Plaut said the aircraft was designed with a “comprehensive suite of safety features, including high redundancy and inherent stability,” and has very few critical moving parts other than its eight rotors. This means, the company said, Air One can remain airborne with the loss of any one of its critical components.
“Air One will constantly scan its surroundings for hazards, cross-checking these external inputs with internal systems throughout the entire flight, and automatically alerting the user to any required action,” Plaut said. “With its proprietary ‘fly-by-intent’ system, Air One can translate the pilot’s intentions into the necessary control inputs, essentially eliminating ‘loss of control.’”
The aircraft also includes basic functions, such as route planning, location tools, troubleshooting, and a ballistic parachute.
Air said it doesn’t have plans to move into commercial ridesharing markets at this point, and intends to target personal use markets for its two-seat all-electric aircraft.
According to its website, the personal aircraft carries a price tag of US$150,000 for its base model, with type certification and first deliveries expected in 2024. The eVTOL company said it has already received more than 150 Air One pre-orders from customers in the U.S. — its primary market — as well as Europe, Australia and Israel.
As for who can fly the personal eVTOL, Air said it is working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), along with training partners, to determine a full curriculum and guidelines for eVTOL pilot licensing, which it aims to finalize in the next couple of years.
Plaut said the FAA’s recent decision to change type certification for winged eVTOL aircraft could “shorten and simplify” the pilot certification process. He contend that with the FAA now classifying eVTOLs under a new category of powered-lift, rather than basing them on the airplane category, “this means that, while previously an eVTOL pilot would require airplane pilot licensing plus additional training, eVTOLs will now have their own, separate and specific training path.”
With its first hover flight in the books, the company is only now just embarking on its Series A funding round to raise enough capital to certify and roll out its aircraft. Plaut describes Air as “an extremely capital efficient organization which has enabled us to take flight with a full-scale prototype only 12 months after coming out of stealth.” He adds that the company doesn’t have plans to go public.