UK’s Bellwether completes first eVTOL test flight in Dubai

Avatar for Jen NevansBy Jen Nevans | December 13, 2021

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 28 seconds.

Bellwether Industries, an urban air mobility (UAM) startup in the United Kingdom, has completed its first test flight of its two-seat Volar eVTOL aircraft prototype in Dubai last month.

Bellwether Volar
U.K. startup Bellwether Industries has reached a milestone last month. The eVTOL developer said it has conducted its first test flight for its two-seat Volar aircraft in Dubai. Bellwether Industries Image

The company said it will be ready to share a video of the test flight soon, but told that it was able to log eight test flights with its half-scale model during the session — an accomplishment for the team that has now graduated from a year of indoor tethered flights.

The eVTOL developer is targeting the private urban aircraft market for intracity travel, and has built the Volar as a compact vehicle with a hidden propulsion system. The final aircraft will measure 3.2 meters (10.5 feet) wide, which is about 1.5 m (5 ft) wider than an average car.

“A lot of the problems we have is the vehicle doesn’t look like an aircraft, so when people see it, they don’t see how it could work or how it could fly but it’s real,” said Kai-Tse Lin, chief operating officer and co-founder of Bellwether. Through the first test flight, Lin said the company has been able to demonstrate the vehicle’s controllability.

Compared to some of the bigger players in the eVTOL space, Bellwether is a younger startup, established in 2019 by four college classmates. But Lin and fellow co-founder Daniel Chen began experimenting in the space in 2013 when the duo started building their first hovercraft called the Gazelle, which made its debut at the International Young Designers’ Exhibition (YODEX) in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2015.

“We made that model hover, but we couldn’t make it fly because it was too heavy,” Lin said. Nevertheless, he said “that was an important milestone for the team to establish this idea of flying vehicles. We continued to develop the idea, and then we went to the U.K. to start a bigger team and a new project. Then we founded the company.”

Up until now, the startup has remained mum about its project, but recently decided to make public appearances at the DroneX Trade Show and AIRTAXI World Congress this fall, and then more recently at the Dubai Airshow in November where its aircraft was shown to the public for the first time.

These public appearances are vital steps for the company to draw investors for its next seed round. In addition to the US$1 million that the company raised last year from angel investors, Bellwether said it needs to raise an undisclosed amount of funds to build a full-scale working prototype with integrated subsystems, as well as expand its engineering team.  

The current prototype is a two-seat eVTOL, but Bellwether said its final vehicle will be a four- to five-seat aircraft that can transport families around traffic-congested cities.

During the test flight, the prototype was remotely piloted and flew up to four meters (13 feet) at a speed of around 40 kilometers an hour (25 miles an hour). The company said its final design will be able to cruise at altitudes of up to 915 m (3,000 ft), speeds of 220 km/h (135 mph), and have a maximum take-off weight of 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds).

Lin said the team is planning to design a fully electric VTOL, but as the Volar is still in its early stages of development, Bellwether is not taking anything off the table. He said the team is targeting a battery system with a duration of 60 to 90 minutes that would be capable to carrying out intracity trips.

Bellwether Volar
According to Bellwether, once the Volar eVTOL aircraft is complete, it will be designed to cruise at altitudes of up to 915 meters (3,000 feet), speeds of 220 kilometers per hour (135 miles per hour), and have a maximum take-off weight of 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds). Bellwether Industries Image

“We’re open to all kinds of power sources, but the vehicle control and the basic system will still be electric,” Lin said.

Along with designing the aircraft, Bellwether is exploring other business models — namely an air traffic management system and UAM infrastructure. Lin said the company is setting its sights at 2028 to bring the Volar to market, and is working closely with consultants to help prepare for its type certification application with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority.

Though Lin admitted the initial price of the eVTOL in 2030 will be “like owning a private jet,” his aim is to trim away at that price over the following decade to make it comparable to owning a car. Bellwether believes that just like other technology industries, as the UAM industry matures and more companies enter the space, the development of technology and mass production will mature, gradually bringing down the price point.

“Our goal is to make the vehicle for everyone in the future,” Lin said. “Like owning a car, you’re owning a Volar.”

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  1. Avatar for Jen Nevans
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        1. Well it’s about as close as we can get currently including compared to say a horse and cart which was horrendously polluting and deadly in terms of disease in Victorian times so unless we restrict ourselves to walking what’s the alternative?

      1. Not polluting on your end but you forget how horrible the condition of the Chinese lithium mines in africa are, and how damaging processed lithium is to the environment.

        And currently, China is the biggest supplier of African mined Lithium.

        Why aren’t environmentalists asking china to correct their mining practices?

  1. Hello, Advanced Airline Funding can find these products provided there some relevant contribution from the startup company or investors – we do the funding in a novel way, contact us.

  2. Negative comments and laughed at Wright Bros were wrong too, people it starts small, then crawls, walks, runs, then you are buying one and getting off the horse and train.

  3. Might as well buy an airplane. They allways say that it will cost as much as a car and when they’re done its the price of an airplane…..

    1. ..this is all very well but not one person has come up with, or mention a flying car/vehicle that can
      beat gravity in case the motor stops during the fight.. may laugh..?? Carry on laughing or call the UFO’s head office to get some pointers..ironic..??
      You bet..!! ..long way to go yet..but well done so far

  4. How do you checkout before takeoff? How reliable will it be? How subject to environmental damage? What are pilot requirements? Etc.
    How many flying hours before major components need replacement and who’s going to do all that?

  5. Like to see and heat about the inventors and the game changer innovators who are actually doing things to address human problems and try to solve them. Too many people criticize the scientists and engineers that figure out the how-to’s, and the same people are against technology and seem to be afraid of change. The world and our inhabitable earth is changing, and we continuely need to learn to change with it and to adapt to it as we all move along.

  6. More vaporwear despite the headline saying the vehicle completed a test flight. No it was a HALF-SCALE MODEL, likely made out of foam. A far far cry from a literal vehicle capable of whisking 400 lb of human beings thru the skies.

    Investors, guard your wallets! That’s what I think most of these highly publicized, highly optimistic start-ups are actually selling—investment traps.

  7. We see some negatives but one positive is that its appearance is the best-looking drone I’ve seen. However, good design would demonstrate form follows function and the form streamlining efficiency fails with its top side into the wind forcing negative lift pushing down as fans push up thus wasting fuel and slowing speed.

  8. Great work, keep work
    Every startup is hard, bit ar the end you Will make ii a reality. Many people always say(BS).
    I hope to be alive to see your work. Do not giveup.

  9. I wouldn’t like to see a thousand or more trying to enter a city and or see the cops trying to stop a drink driver what a hell of a pileup that would be, but i suppose they’ll be fitted with a alcohol and drug detector like all cars should have been fitted buy now, then what about a terrorist in control?

  10. Yeah. Looks cool but this one will fail like others before it. What’s the glide ratio of a flying brick with no wings? The main problem with this concept is that when there’s an engine failure there’s very little chance of a safe landing.

  11. It doesn’t have wheels so it cannot be driven on roads. It is less useful than a helicopter if it cannot be driven on roads. If you add autonomous controls to a helicopter and it will be vastly better than this thing.

  12. Just be realistic. Whoever have pilot licence could add valuable opinion on the subject. Airspace is connected and FAA either approve or not duch idea. The pilot license must be required for obvious safety and operational reasons. And no battery, just hydrogen fuel please! Just make more researching and you gone to find out why?!

  13. Your craft is beautiful, however I can show you confidentially how to rethink this antiquated propulsion and lift technology.
    Supreior integration with existing state of the art systems and platforms.

    1. I’m interested in a propulsion system with current technology. It is my belief turbine fans and or rotors have been obsolete 60 years. Flying is complex. Ex. Different airspace, flight rules, etc. Some type of modern propulsion system that produce enough thrust is necessary for success. Until this happens, beware investors.

  14. Just wondering; isn’t the concept of mini helicopters and full size drones available now ? And if so, how come they’re not being mass produced ? So many details to be addressed and worked out, let alone insurance and legal issues. High speed tunnels for mass transit is a better and more viable alternative

  15. As a 42 years old man I love Technology.
    Man Is on a Journey to discover new innovative designs so that we can further are minds And body to do the unthinkable. But as long as we live in the past with older technologies like gasoline and things that pollute our world we will never get the chance to make these discoveries. Please let’s not fight and work on the future to bring propulsionary view vehicles made real So that our children have a chance to see how great minds achieve greatness. But as long as we fight among each other about out things that will change and others will not we are showing them how corrupt we are as a race on this Earth. Remember this every great mind that has stumbled is stumbled on to great designs and inventions the mass of people have have always told them it can’t be done it’ll never work you should just quit while you’re ahead now now we have great inventions like the airplane is like the airplane the combustion engine And other inventions like robots 3d printed Things that we manipulate with our minds shows the rest of the world broad we do have a chance.

  16. Ask Hollywood they know when they make movies from the space like star wars how so perfect does ships flying and go so quickly, let’s make see is the atmosphere or the gravity earth or probably something is missing because so heavy with material cabor, very hard and strong material like rock and lite like hair and the blue diamond technology Super turbine engine vapor, that controls heat, warm, cool vapor, with the marvelous speedy of light Hollywood movies in does science fiction is so wonderful I know is movie but yours never know someone can’t learn from the movies theater good work to showing that video but is not enough that toy drones need more work more big to drivers and less scared 1 millions of dollars for nothing creating toys and wasting time, is nothing in this video to watch the showing.

  17. Electric / battery disposal generates more damage to the environment. Thanks to the current administration and nonsense legislation, the cost of goods are rising rapidly. This impacts the lower income bracket the most.

  18. This a no-go tech! As one poster said before is just another technical “pollution”. The EDF’s used will never give enough power in a long run. PERIOD! A good looks doesn’t mean that the thing could actually fly. And making a model that fly… well everyone can do it. But making a 1:1 and making it fly for 1h, well this is the whole another story. I’m speaking from the experience. We did build even better model but the batteries or weight to energy density if you will IS NOT THERE YET!! Sorry investors for your lost money 🙂

  19. To all the the good points on “what if the engine fails?” the proponents of no wings will say “they wont fail as its all electric not fire”. True it is less maintenance than ICEngine’s oily fire hot mess but dead batteries are a huge awareness of danger they ignore.

    Batteries are dangerously bad for longer travel than the short urban taxi hops and being heavy they are skimped on in design making that the likely failure point for a brick without wings.

    Someone or several of you in the field need to start inventing the “Duel Ballistic Chute” for dead engines and sudden fail falling. The 12 month publishing prior art starts now.!

    The DBC ballistically shoots the chute vertically to then SECONDARILY explode a fully inflated canopy adding a quick upward force to stop the brick’s dead engine decent from a dead battery with its emergency capacitors also empty. Quick deployment avoids trying to stop the 32ft/sec acceleration down so onboard computers could make it deploy just as the capacitors drain out.

    I release all rights to this idea;
    Tris Metcalfe

  20. Looks like a great thing let’s get it into production and out into the world we want it and we want it now and we want to be able to afford it we should have had it by now it’s 2022 already come on now somebody’s got to get this thing out there if not them …Elon musk got to do it

  21. Apperently many seems occupied with how the Volar is to be powered by lithiumion batteriets, and how these accumulators are a severe impact on the environment. The mining and proces of refining lithiumore, for sure is a risk right now. But what will happen further down the development of this prototype? Would it be better to take what supercapacitors could provide into account as a means to power its electric engines?

  22. Let’s for one second put aside the devastating lithium mining side.
    It’s electric… so I guess fuel efficient to run once built.
    – What is the scalability of passenger capacity?
    – Are we just adding an extra category of fuel-requiring transportation? (perhaps a bad example, but trains / cars / bicycles did not replace each other, they still all exist)
    – Is this just some rich-kid stuff?

  23. This is an amazing start, this company are try to change the agenda, make our world better through innovation and tech. I take my hat of to you, there is a long way to go, not only for this great piece of engineering, also changing the mindsets of governments, policy and the red tape, never mind trying to prove this technology is how this world survives.

    Keep up the great work and inventive and critics thinking.

  24. Exactly, why don’t you just do what other people have done in contact the likes of Richard Branson who are very well connected to vehicles like yours. By the way good luck because before mote Taylor inventor extraordinary engineer of the aero car died I spoke to him and he told me there are reasons why these sea change vehicles will be stifled! Yeah it looks cool it may take four or five more years to fly and then you’re going to realize you’ve got all the aviation authorities to deal with. You might as well just f****** throw caution to the wind, good luck and all.

  25. This thing looks like the biggest scam to me…
    Everything we have seen are some renderings, PR shots and a miniature of this thing flying remote in some garden. Not very convincing.

  26. Short and sweet…the first company that produces/manufactures a single seat eVOTL as your showing/developing will be on the ground floor in sale’s. Many of us with the money (within reason) to purchase such a machine are aging (60s-70s) and soon won’t be flying. Hope you get it together soon.

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