This foreword could tally the aircraft orders made at
this month’s Paris Air Show and provide an update on
the Airbus versus Boeing duopoly. Instead it proposes
that the clear winner at this year’s show was urban
Yes, put your ear to the air and you can hear the
buzz of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
Critics may argue that this buzz is metaphorical. We
probably are a fair way along the hype cycle for air
taxis and flying cars. But at the world’s largest air
show concept drawings and artist’s illustrations are
beginning to solidify into metal and composite aircraft,
with companies such as Boeing and
Airbus exhibiting their eVTOL (electric
vertical takeoff and landing) vehicles.
There were also several key eVTOL
announcements made around and
at the show. Embraer detailed the
progress it is making developing an air taxi with Uber
and German company Lilium also recently revealed its
full-scale prototype air taxi.
The plethora of eVTOL partnerships and projects
is compounded by the overwhelmingly positive
predictions and polls. For example, a recent survey
conducted for engineering simulation company Ansys
found that 70% of consumers, from a sample of 22,000
people in 11 different countries, believe that they will fly
in an autonomous aircraft in their lifetime.
There is now a shared expectation that eVTOLs will
become a reality and will significantly grow aviation.
There is also a growing suspicion within the industry
that they could impact society in the same way large
commercial airliners did in the 20th century. Aircraft
like the 747 and A320 opened up the skies between our
cities to millions of new customers and made air travel
accessible to the masses. Could eVTOLs open the skies
above our cities to the travelling public in the same
way, shifting millions of commuters from clogged roads
and railways to routes in the sky?
It’s an exciting vision to invoke and its up to
engineers to develop the aircraft that make it possible.
Indeed, most of the technology for eVTOLs exists
already. OEMs like Airbus and suppliers like Collins
Aerospace are investing millions into testing facilities
for the next generation of electric aircraft. Academia
and industry are solving the thorny engineering
challenges, such as autonomous control of aircraft,
urban air traffic management, lightweight materials
and battery capacity.
Most experts agree that by the mid-2020s we will
have eVTOLs transporting cargo and passengers
around cities. They may be piloted at first, but will
gradually become autonomous by around 2030. It’s
a conservative estimate, suitable for an industry
that always takes a measured and careful approach
towards safety. Undoubtedly there are tough technical
challenges still to be solved. However, when eVTOLs
are safely in the air, the whole industry grows and
benefits from the buzz, not just Boeing and Airbus.
Ben Sampson, editor
2 JUNE \\ AEROSPACETESTINGINTERNATIONAL.COM
// The team
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CEO Ben Allen
// Benefit of the buzz
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At the world’s largest air show
concept drawings of Evtols
are turning into aircraft