Rolls-Royce is on a mission to get air taxis to take off.

Rolls-Royce is committed to the urban and regional air mobility programs expected to disrupt the existing ground transport market. The air mobility programs also extend to individual passenger and cargo transport using electric vehicles. Rolls-Royce leverages its experience with electrical and engine technology in contributing toward future electrical vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles. The future of air mobility programs will be based on electric or hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems.

Rolls-Royce aims to become the leading supplier of complete hybrid-electric power systems for eVTOLs in the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market. Rolls-Royce’s existing expertise guides technological development in the electric propulsion systems to power the new mode of transport.

Rolls-Royce established a specialized team to focus on developing clean, efficient, and quieter technology to power various modes of transport, most notably for urban and regional air transport. The group aims to pioneer sustainable power technologies to bring carbon emissions to be net-zero by 2050. According to Gabriele Teofili, Business Area Lead for UAM at Rolls-Royce,

This exciting market has huge potential for Rolls-Royce in the next decade. There are an enormous number of start-ups and established players working on eVTOL programs, many of them presenting promising concepts.

The future eVTOL market

While existing manufacturers are performing trial (pilot-operated) electric flights in Asia, the larger goal is to provide autonomous operations in the electric aircraft market. Existing services operated using helicopters and smaller aircraft are aimed to be replaced with electric aircraft.

A Rolls-Royce engineer working on a hydrogen engine.

Photo: Rolls-Royce

Gabriele Teofili further states,

We believe that the first markets will develop on fixed routes between specific points in megacities, which are already partially served by helicopters. However, the benefit of the eVTOL is that they have the potential to be a lot quieter and to cover these distances at a fraction of the cost.

Additional applications of eVTOL aircraft include agriculture, cargo, and rescue missions, which are both location-specific and time-sensitive. Rolls-Royce envisions the use of eVTOL aircraft for passenger transport in the next decade.

Electrical technology

Rolls-Royce is working on developing electrical technology that could power future electric or hybrid-electric air vehicles. The specialized team focuses on various areas of electric technology. The first is in-flight testing of the propulsion system that powers the CityAirbus demonstrator.

A Roll-Royce Hydrogen Engine.

Photo: Rolls-Royce

The CityAirbus is an all-electric, four-seat, multi-copter vehicle demonstrator that focuses on advancing remotely piloted eVTOL flight. Rolls-Royce has been collecting flight data of eight electrical propulsion units and the power distribution systems on the demonstrator vehicle. The installed software and flight configurations are constantly upgraded and fine-tuned to achieve optimal flight characteristics. According to Rolls-Royce,

Having a flying demonstrator (or a flying test bed) is a vital learning tool for the preparation of the next generation of power systems.

Rolls-Royce is also working on advanced processes for the qualification of components. The improved components and qualification methods should ease the certification process for its electric technologies. It is essential to improve and tailor the manufacturing process to not only fit market needs, but also airworthiness certification requirements.

What are your thoughts on Rolls-Royce’s initiatives towards urban and regional air mobility programs? Tell us in the comments section.

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