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Airbus unveils CityAirbus NextGen prototype ahead of test campaign

By Oliver Johnson | March 7, 2024

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 31 seconds.

Airbus has unveiled its CityAirbus NextGen prototype to the public in a special ceremony at its facility in Donauworth, Germany, ahead of the electric aircraft’s maiden flight later this year.

“Rolling out CityAirbus NextGen for the very first time is an important and very real step that we are taking towards advanced air mobility and our future product and market,” said Balkiz Sarihan, CEO and head of Urban Air Mobility at Airbus. “Thank you to our community, team and partners all over the world for helping us make this a reality.”

The aircraft was powered on for the first time in December 2023. Airbus Photo

The unveiling has been accompanied with the release of new photos and video of the prototype, which was in assembly throughout last year in preparation for the start of its flight test campaign in 2024.

The first phase of this campaign will take place in the new 10,700-square foot CityAirbus test center in Donauworth, which was also officially opened today. While the center is currently focused on CityAirbus NextGen’s development, the intention is for it to be dedicated to testing systems for all the manufacturer’s electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.

CityAirbus NextGen has a wing span of about 40 feet (12 meters) and is powered by eight propellers and 16 electrical power units, with dual systems for redundancy. When in operation, it will carry one pilot with three passengers in a banked seat at the rear of the cabin.

CityAirbus NextGen has a wing span of about 40 feet (12 meters) Airbus Photo

Airbus is developing the aircraft to fly with a range of 50 miles (80 kilometers) and reach a cruise speed of 75 mph (120 km/h) — capabilities the manufacturer said will make it well suited for a variety of operations in major cities.

CityAibus NextGen completed its first power-on in December 2023 and will now complete the tests required before it can take its first flight. These include testing the electric motors and rotors, as well as the flight controls and avionics.

The initial test phase will be remotely piloted, but Airbus has been clear from the outset that its plan is to enter the eVTOL market with a piloted product.

The flight test campaign will take place in parallel with the maturation of various technologies set to be incorporated into the aircraft, such as the “Millennium” single stick control and Vertex autonomy system.

The first phase of the flight test campaign will be remotely piloted. Airbus Photo

Airbus is also working to develop the broader ecosystem in which eVTOL aircraft will operate, signing partnerships to help create and foster a viable advanced air mobility (AAM) market.

These include agreements with Chilean operator Ecocopter, Saudi Arabia’s The Helicopter Company, and Japanese operator Hiratagakuen to better understand the urban air mobility markets in those regions. It has also partnered with the Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation to explore the use of CityAirbus NextGen in the emergency medical services (EMS) mission.

The electric aircraft has eight propellers. Airbus Photo

At Heli-Expo 2024, it announced an agreement with leasing company LCI to focus on the development of partnership scenarios and business models in three core AAM areas: strategy, commercialization and financing.

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