Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles are set to change the urban mobility landscape as we have known it for the past century. The motley market is slowly crystallizing into the front-runners with significant orders and far-progressed machines on the one hand and the startups that may be falling behind on the other. One of the foremost contenders with orders from American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and AirAsia, among others, is Vertical Aerospace. Over the weekend, the company saw its VX4 aircraft take off from the ground for the very first time.
For safety reasons, the aircraft was tethered to the ground as its eight sets of aerodynamic propellers lifted it five feet from the ground at hover-thrust. This was the fourth stage of Vertical’s six-stage flight test program and will be followed soon by low-speed flight at 50 feet.
The following and final stage will be transition and envelope extension at 5,000 – 10,000 feet. According to Vertical Aerospace, this full-scale piloted prototype is the first British-made aircraft to be launched in the last 20 years. The company is aiming for certification by 2025.
Vertical Aerospace’s Chief Test Pilot, Justin Paines, said,
“This test represented the culmination of many months preparation by a huge team and being at the controls of the VX4 for the first time was an honour and a proud moment for us all.”
The VX4 lifted from the ground for the first time over the weekend. Photo: Vertical Aerospace
“Permit to Fly” for pilot on board
The company said it decided to conduct the first hover test flight with a pilot onboard to show that its aircraft meets the highest safety standards. For this, Vertical had to receive regulatory approval in the form of a “Permit to Fly” from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), after
demonstrating that the test could be conducted safely.
The test flight program is also supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute, a UK government-industry program designed to promote transformative technology in air transport.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Founder & CEO of Vertical Aerospace, commented on the milestone achievement,
“This moment represents a small step for Vertical Aerospace, but it’s a giant leap forward for British aviation. For more than 100 years the UK has been a global leader in aviation and today, in the 21st century, Britain is leading the world in the development of zero carbon aircraft.”
Orders for 1,400 vehicles
Vertical Aerospace has a market-leading pre-order book for 1,400 aircraft. The VX4 is projected to be able to carry one pilot and four passengers for up to 100 miles cruising at 150 miles per hour and achieving top speeds of over 200 miles per hour with zero emissions.
Customers include American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Avolon, Bristow, Marubeni, Iberojet and FLYINGGROUP, as well as GOL, AirAsia, Japan Airlines, and Gozen Holdings through lessor giant Avolon’s forthcoming assets.
Are you excited about the zero-emissions urban air mobility revolution? Do you believe we will have eVTOL vehicles in the sky in just a few years’ time? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.