Airbus has revealed the design of its next-generation CityAirbus, a winged eVTOL aircraft that will be the company’s offering for the urban air mobility (UAM) market.
Unveiled at Airbus’s first summit on “Pioneering Sustainable Aerospace” on Sept. 21, the fully electric, four-seat multi-rotor aircraft features six propellers on wing-mounted booms, and two additional fixed-tilt propellers for cruise flight on a V-shaped tail. It is being developed to fly with a range of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and cruise speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) — modest targets that are nevertheless sufficient to meet the vast majority of missions in and around urban areas, according to Airbus UAM head Joerg Mueller.
Noise levels are expected to be below 65 dB(A) during fly-over and below 70 dB(A) during landing. Airbus plans to fly an initial prototype in 2023, with certification by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) anticipated around 2025.
Speaking at the summit in Toulouse, France, Mueller said that “CityAirbus NextGen” incorporates lessons from the company’s two eVTOL technology demonstrators: the original CityAirbus, a multi-rotor aircraft that is representative of the size and weight of the next-generation design; and the tilt-wing, single-seat Vahana, which was optimized for performance in cruise flight. Airbus collectively flew the demonstrators around 1,000 km over 242 flight and ground tests before converging on the NextGen design.
“We have spent hundreds of thousands of engineering hours on this; on all aspects of eVTOL design,” he said, noting that Airbus has performed extensive computer modelling, conducted multiple wind tunnel tests with full-scale propellers, and set up test benches for noise research. “We have even overflown an urban area, have measured the propagation of sound in this city and the effect it has on people on the ground . . . to see in which sense we need to optimize such a vehicle,” Mueller added.
Mueller said the design of CityAirbus NextGen has “no movable surfaces and no tilting parts,” which makes it “simple and efficient, still while providing a significant forward flight performance.” The aircraft will initially be piloted, but Airbus expects to move toward autonomous flight as the technology and operational framework for self-flying aircraft are established.
“We have learned a lot from the test campaigns with our two demonstrators, CityAirbus and Vahana,” said Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even. “The CityAirbus NextGen combines the best from both worlds with the new architecture striking the right balance between hover and forward flight.”
This story has been updated to describe NextGen as a winged multi-rotor design, rather than lift-plus-cruise. For a more detailed explanation of the aircraft’s design, see our follow-up story.