Futuristic Vertical Take-off and Landing Vehicles - Foresight Aerospace 2020

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In the first article about Foresight 2020, we dived into the sustainability aspects of the future of aviation - we had a look into sustainable fuel, Airbus E-Fan X project, and Hybrid technology. Today, we bring to you another interesting domain that was discussed in this forum - development of versatile and eco-friendly electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft - a personalised air vehicle that could transform the way we travel within cities.

Kaydon Stanzione, the Chief Executive of Jaunt Air Mobility presented this intriguing topic of how the use of personalised eVTOL can transform the way we live, work, and play. According to Deloitte, US passenger eVTOL market is expected to reach US$3.4 billion in 2025. As urban traffic is on a rise due to increased industrialisation and growth, the costs associated with commuter time and costs for goods and services have shot up. The eVTOL air vehicle is envisioned to tackle this very impediment by providing a convenient, innovative and green solution. 

Vertical Take-Off and Landing Vehicles (VTOL) are those which can take off and land from the same place without the need of a runway. While they can either be of the manned type or unmanned type (fully autonomous) and can be in various sizes and scales, currently, engineers all around the world are focussing on developing a manned small scale vehicle, that being the low hanging fruit. A typical VTOL vehicle can be seen in the images below.

VTOL basically has three configurations:

  1. wing type configuration, 

  2. helicopter type configuration and 

  3. ducted type configuration. 

Wing type configuration has fixed wings with vector thrust engine or moving wings with an engine, while the ducted type has a ducted rotor which helps to provide lift. The helicopter type, on the other hand, has rotor mounted above it to provide lift. Going to particularly personalised or small scale VTOL vehicles also termed as ‘Micro Manned/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)’, they have more than one rotor, and hence named as ‘multirotor’ systems. They usually have fixed pitch propellers compared to variable pitch propellers in helicopters. Presently more research is done in this field owing to the advantages of it due to its size.

While various companies like Jaunt Air Mobility are involved in research and development for VTOL, another aspect (as discussed in previous Foresight article) shall be the electrification of these vehicles for better efficiency and reduced carbon footprint. A multitude of global organisations like Uber have already invested heavily in figuring out what urban point-to-point mobility of the future would look like, and almost every solution has either eVTOL or a part of it embedded in it. 

While eVTOLs might very well be the future of urban communication, analysts in the panel showed substantial optimism to see these vehicles in the product development phase by as early as 2025. The inclusion of eVTOLs in urban infrastructure includes the creation and analysis of a multitude of new norms and regulations, which are yet to be defined fully. As more companies invest and research in the field, the panel was sure that till 2030, eVTOLs could be contributing about 5-7% of total urban traffic.


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