Nine months after Pipistrel revealed it was shifting its attention away from eVTOL air taxis to work on a hybrid-electric cargo drone, the Slovenian aircraft manufacturer has publicly unveiled the program as Nuuva.
The Nuuva series includes the flagship Nuuva V300 — which is targeting a payload of up to 460 kilograms (1,014 lb.) — as well as the smaller Nuuva V20, which will have a 20-kg (44-lb.) payload capacity. Pipistrel said the V20 will be delivered to first customers as early as 2021, while the V300 is projected to enter service in the second half of 2023.
The Nuuva V300 will take off and land using eight independent battery-powered Pipistrel E-811 electric motors, which are already type certified. (The E-811 also features in Pipistrel’s Velis Electro, which in June of this year became the first fully electric airplane to be certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.)
Once the V300 is in the air, an internal combustion engine in the aft fuselage will power a pusher prop for cruise flight. Pipistrel said the tandem-wing configuration with fly-by-wire control surfaces “boosts the aerodynamic efficiency and reduces the landing footprint of the vehicle, while assuring a wide center-of-gravity margin.”
The V300’s cargo compartment is designed to accommodate up to three Euro-pallets that can be loaded with a regular forklift. However, Pipistrel noted that the aircraft can be customized to deliver various combinations of payload and range, traveling as far as 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) with a 50-kg (110-lb.) payload, while still being able to take off and land vertically from altitudes as high as 8,000 feet (2,440 meters).
Pipistrel envisions the Nuuva V300 flying pre-loaded flight plans fully autonomously while remaining in continuous communication with a ground operator who retains ultimate control over the flight. Compared to a helicopter, the company expects the V300 to deliver a tenfold improvement in operating economics.
Although Pipistrel sees Nuuva as the more promising eVTOL program in the near term, the company said earlier this year that it hasn’t abandoned its 801 eVTOL air taxi. In a statement issued on May 15, Pipistrel explained, “We keep both projects in parallel, which allows the use of the same development methodology and tools for both vehicles.”