Airbus is not the only large aircraft OEM to take part in the race to offer reliable, sustainable and feasible air taxi services through eVTOLs. US-based aerospace manufacturers Boeing (through its subsidiary Aurora Aerospace) and Textron’s Bell division developed their own eVTOL air taxi proposals to make urban air mobility commonplace. In this installment of Mexico Aviation & Aerospace Review’s “Tomorrow’s Flying Taxi, Today” series, we showcase the eVTOL projects that these companies are creating.
Even before being acquired by Boeing in November, 2017, Aurora was already working on an eVTOL aircraft that the company unveiled in the Uber Elevate Summit in April, 2017. The project is simply named eVTOL and according to Aurora, will be used for on-demand short-haul urban air transportation of cargo and passengers. These aircraft will operate on a “hub-to-hub” scheme between vertipods where passengers will board them and aircraft will be serviced.
Aurora’s eVTOL uses eight electric rotors to lift off vertically and a propeller installed in its rear to fly horizontally at high speeds. The Vertical Flight Technical Society calculates that this aircraft will have a fuselage length stretching to 8m and a similar wingspan. Aurora’s eVTOL is forecasted to reach cruise speeds of 180km/h and have a maximum gross takeoff of 800kg.
Since eVTOL is a fully electric, autonomous aircraft, it will be able to transport two people and luggage without emitting either greenhouse gases or noise. Aurora Flight Sciences will offer special configurations of its eVTOL depending on the needs for civil and military operations.
A subscale demonstrator has already taken off on April, 2017 as a proof of concept and Uber’s partnership with Aurora Flight Sciences is forecasted to give foot for users of the Uber Elevate Network to request an Aurora eVTOL air taxi through apps. The first test flights of a full-scale Aurora eVTOL are expected to take place in 2020 in Texas and Dubai. According to a press release, Aurora’s goal of delivering 50 eVTOLs for flight testing is within reach.
Bell is an experienced and renowned rotorcraft manufacturer that has produced helicopters since the 1930s and Air Taxi is the first eVTOL concept that the company presents. Bell is among the companies partnering with the Uber Elevate project. It could be supplying vehicles for robotic flights sometime in the 2020s.
While there is still little information available on Bell’s Air Taxi project, the company’s proposal is perhaps the most luxurious concept of an eVTOL created so far because of the equipment and amenities the aircraft is designed to employ. Air Taxi is projected to have capacity for four passengers with real-time traffic updates, leather seats, wireless charging ports, WiFi connectivity, video conferencing capabilities, social media connectivity and a seamless music experience that uses Bluetooth technology.
Bell presented Air Taxi’s cabin during CES2018 and employed virtual reality to show attendees how Bell’s Air Taxi is planned to revolutionize air urban mobility. We have little technical information on the Air Taxi because Bell has only presented the cabin so far and plans to unveil the complete aircraft with rotors, wings and powertrain later on. Three things that are sure about Air Taxi: it will be completely electric, autonomous and take off and land vertically.