Last week, EAA AirVenture 2021 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin saw multiple eVTOL demo flights that garnered significant attention during the daily airshows. Two well-known names in the industry, Volocopter and Opener, both demoed their technology to great public interest.
However, another player was also present at Oshkosh, as TeTra Aviation Corporation sat rather quietly in its booth behind the main exhibit stages. Drawing substantial crowds even without a flight demonstration, TeTra — which brought most of its small, eight-employee staff all the way from Japan — was displaying its TeTra Mk-5 aircraft at AirVenture.
The Mk-5 is the company’s latest iteration on the hybrid-electric vehicle that was selected as a phase 1 winner in the 2018 GoFly Prize competition, and eventually won the $100,000 Pratt & Whitney Disruptor Award in 2020. The TeTra Mk-5 is now a fully electric lift-plus-cruise VTOL aircraft with 32 small rotors for vertical flight and a larger pusher propeller behind the cockpit for forward flight.
Although TeTra didn’t fly a public demo at Oshkosh this year, the company is planning to conduct test flights in California next month, according to company director Hidemi Arai. Arai also said that the company intends to pursue commercialization in the United States under the Federal Aviation Administration’s experimental aircraft framework, with the TeTra aircraft initially available only as a kit for home-building. “Anyone will be able to purchase this aircraft,” she said.
Amateur-built aircraft are classified as experimental by the FAA because they require the operator to build more than 50 percent of the aircraft, and therefore do not meet traditional aircraft certification standards. If successful, TeTra will be pioneering a new age of electric home-built aircraft, possibly tapping into a large community of aviation enthusiasts that could help boost the company’s brand. “We want to make a community so we can hear what [our customers] want,” Arai said.
According to Arai, those sales could be starting sooner rather than later, with the company targeting availability as early as the end of 2022. That means the Tetra Mk-5 could be many people’s first introduction to eVTOL aircraft, arriving well ahead of commercial competitors such as Joby, Beta, and Volocopter, which are all targeting 2024 for final regulatory approval.
Looking to the future, Arai said that TeTra is looking to hire more employees and is seeking more funding to continue its development efforts. The company is also exploring possible commercialization paths in Dubai and South Korea.