The Vertical Flight Society (VFS) has now cataloged the 300th model in its World eVTOL Aircraft Directory.
Not all of these aircraft are currently in development, as VFS executive director Mike Hirschberg explained during an Aviation Week webinar on urban air mobility (UAM) on July 22. The comprehensive directory is intended as an “encyclopedia” of eVTOL concepts, and includes defunct prototypes as well as “cartoons or industrial designs that people have come up with to try and envision this future,” he said.
However, the steady growth of the directory “shows that there’s a real interest in this area,” he continued. Having launched in 2017 with fewer than a dozen models listed, the World eVTOL Aircraft Directory recorded its 200th model in September 2019. Since the beginning of 2018, the directory has grown at an average rate of two models per week.
According to Hirschberg, the 300 aircraft models represent around 215 different developers, ranging from student design teams to well-funded companies that are already engaged in certification flight testing. When asked how many of these aircraft he expects to see enter service, Hirschberg pointed out that even if only a small percentage of these early eVTOL concepts succeed, they are likely to encourage the development of next-generation models that could revolutionize aerial transport.
“To answer the question literally, how many of these 300 will ever go into service: A lot of them have already been abandoned or were never really seriously intended to go into service. Maybe it’s 10 or 15, say, within the next decade or so, but there will also be . . . a second generation and third generation,” he said.
“It’s a revolution; it’s like smartphones,” Hirschberg continued. “Once there’s existence proof of the revolutionary capability of smartphones, now there are lots of smartphone manufacturers. And we’ll see the same thing, I think, with electric propulsion.”
According to VFS, some $4 billion has been invested into the emerging eVTOL industry since the society held the world’s first meeting of the eVTOL development community in 2014 — a launchpad for what VFS calls the “Electric VTOL Revolution.” Much of that funding is coming from outside the traditional aerospace industry, with Toyota Motor Corporation recently investing $394 million into the U.S.-based eVTOL developer Joby Aviation, for example.
VFS continues to drive the Electric VTOL Revolution through events like next week’s virtual Electric Aircraft Symposium, for which eVTOL.com is a gold sponsor. The society is planning to hold its 3rd Workshop on eVTOL Infrastructure for UAM as a virtual meeting on Sept. 1-3. Additionally, its 76th Annual Forum & Technology Conference — now a virtual event scheduled for Oct. 5-8 — will include dozens of talks and exhibits on eVTOL and advanced air mobility.
“Electric VTOL aircraft hold out the promise of being much safer, cheaper, cleaner and quieter,” Hirschberg summarized in a press release. “The development of these aircraft is part of a larger global trend to support investment in sustainable aviation that continues in spite of the novel coronavirus pandemic.”