Electra.aero, the developers of a hybrid-electric STOL, said it is on track to start flight testing its full-scale demonstrator aircraft later this year, bolstered by a recent financial investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures (LMV).
John Langford, founder and CEO of Electra, told eVTOL.com that while the company would not disclose the funds raised to date, this recent funding announcement will give the eSTOL developer the boost it would need to build a full-scale prototype and take off for the first time at one of its locations in Virginia or South Carolina in the second half of 2022.
“To date, we’ve been focusing on the hybrid-electric propulsion system development, which is a fairly sophisticated piece of equipment that has the turbo generator, batteries, motors — all of the control systems,” Langford said. “Now we’re using the Lockheed money to get that into the aircraft and start flying it.”
Electra is developing a hybrid-electric STOL, which it claims will be able to take off and land on runways as short as 300 feet (91 meters) using its distributed electric propulsion and blown lift technology, where the electric motor-driven propellers blow air over the entire span of the wing and its flaps.
The aircraft will include a small turbine-powered generator that can recharge the batteries mid-flight, removing the burden of having to establish new ground charging infrastructure.
Langford told eVTOL.com that the aircraft would be able to land and depart at speeds below 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) and cruise at up to 200 mph (320 km/h). The eSTOL can transport up to 1,800 pounds (815 kilograms) of cargo, or seven to nine passengers up to 500 miles (800 kilometers).
Electra is targeting certification with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration by 2026, under the agency’s Part 23 rules for small airplanes. Once certified, the company said its potential applications include on-demand intracity flights, medical missions, cargo transportation, and scheduled passenger service.
The funding boost from LMV is the latest in a series of developments for the eSTOL developer. Last summer, helicopter operator Bristow Group announced a partnership with Electra to become its principal launch customer. Through the agreement, Electra anticipates delivering around 50 aircraft to Bristow to use in existing and new markets, including middle mile logistics for retail distribution.
Last year, Electra also forged partnerships that would see it enter the European, Latin American, and Australian markets. The deal with Flyv, an on-demand air mobility airline in Europe, includes up to 100 pre-orders of Electra’s aircraft. Meanwhile, its partnerships with Flapper, an on-demand private aviation platform in Latin America, and Skyportz, an advanced air mobility infrastructure developer in Australia, resulted in pre-orders of up to 30 and 100 eSTOL aircraft respectively.
“To me, the big value of these [partnerships] is they build customer relationships and they involve customers in the early stages of the detailed design,” Langford said. “We went through the systems requirement review for our product in early December. That was based heavily on the input that we received from the early adopters we’ve been working with, such as Bristow.”