Following a year of sub-scale testing, aerial logistics startup Airflow plans to transform a single-engine Cessna 210 Centurion into an electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft with a distributed electric propulsion (DEP) architecture.
“Selecting the Cessna 210 saves us the effort to design and build the pieces [of the aircraft] that already work, such as the cockpit, fuselage, landing gear, etc.,” said Peter Kalogiannis, co-founder and CTO of Airflow, in a press release. “We’ll concentrate on changing the rest to make it an eSTOL aircraft.”
Airflow, founded by five former Airbus Vahana team members, intends to develop hybrid- and battery-electric eSTOL aircraft that are certifiable under existing Part 23 FAA regulations, targeting the middle-mile logistics market with an aircraft the team estimates will have 500 to 700 pounds (225 to 315 kilograms) of usable payload, travel four times faster than trucks and have a third of the hourly operating costs of comparable helicopters or eVTOLs.
In December, Airflow selected VerdeGo Aero’s diesel-battery powertrain for its hybrid-electric variant, which the team will develop first before moving to a fully electric version as the relevant enabling technologies progress.
Airflow’s Cessna 210 conversion will be done in parallel with its design of a new aircraft from the ground up to fully realize the benefits of DEP architecture, Kalogiannis told eVTOL.com in an email.
“Because an aircraft of this type has never been flown before, we see the immense value in demonstrating this technology and capability at a relevant scale and in having a tool to further refine our understanding of eSTOL aerodynamics, operations, and flight control,” Kalogiannis said. “We see the proof-of-concept demonstrator as an important tool that will provide us data which along with simulations, wind tunnel testing and other modelling and testing, will help us build and certify the best production product possible.”
Airflox CEO and co-founder Marc Ausman, speaking at the Vertical Flight Society’s Electric VTOL Symposium on Jan. 28, added that the converted Cessna 210 is intended primarily to study the take-off and landing phases of flight.
“It will certainly have much better STOL performance than a standard Cessna 210, but it’s not designed for cruise performance or anything like that. It’s meant purely to explore the approach and departure parts of what we’re doing,” Ausman said. “The proof-of-concept is mostly focused on the control system, control technology and the software, understanding how we can maximize the use of distributed electric propulsion. It’s less about the aerodynamics or meeting the requirements of the production aircraft.”