The U.K.-based eVTOL developer Vertical Aerospace has unveiled its design for the VA-1X, the winged aircraft it plans to take through certification.
Capable of carrying up to four passengers plus a pilot, the aircraft has a 15-meter (49-foot) wingspan and is 13 meters (43 feet) in length, a size compatible with existing helipads. Vertical Aerospace said the VA-1X will have a payload capacity of 450 kilograms (990 pounds) and travel up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) at speeds of up to 150 mph (240 km/h).
As depicted in an animation of the vehicle, the has four tilting, four-bladed propellers mounted in front of the wing that are used for both vertical and forward flight. Four pairs of coaxial, two-bladed lifting propellers at the rear of the wing assist with vertical take-offs and landings but are stowed in a fixed position for cruise.
The fully electric VA-1X will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and has a target of being 30 times quieter than a helicopter thanks to its distributed propulsion system. Honeywell Aerospace will be supplying the aircraft’s fly-by-wire computers, and has signed a letter of intent to also provide a vehicle management system for the prototype.
Vertical Aerospace said it plans to commence build of the aircraft “shortly,” with flight testing starting in 2021 and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification targeted for 2024. The company is positioning the VA-1X as an air taxi that will save commuters time compared to ground transport, and cost compared to a helicopter flight.
In a press release, Vertical Aerospace CEO Michael Cervenka stated, “eVTOL technology will revolutionize travel, combining the safety of commercial airlines with the disruptive environmental and cost benefits of the electrification of flight. With the launch of the VA-1X, we’re proud to be taking eVTOL one step closer to mass-market adoption, and supporting the next era of aviation.”
Vertical Aerospace has already flown two full-scale eVTOL demonstrators: a proof-of-concept vehicle in 2018, and the Seraph in 2019. Both were wingless multicopters inherently less efficient in design than the VA-1X, which has a wing to maximize speed and range.
The company has bases in Bristol and in the F1 cluster in Oxfordshire, and plans to manufacture the VA-1X in the U.K.