CityAirbus performs first public flight demonstration

Avatar for eVTOLBy eVTOL | July 21, 2020

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 7 seconds.

The CityAirbus eVTOL demonstrator made its first public flight demonstration on July 20 at Airbus Helicopters’ facilities in Donauwörth, Germany.

The demonstration coincided with a visit by Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder. According to an Airbus Helicopters spokesperson, around two dozen journalists also witnessed the flight — the first time a CityAirbus flight test has been witnessed by members of the media.

According to their reports, the aircraft hovered two to three meters above the ground for a few minutes before touching down again. Airbus told reporters that the company plans to relocate the aircraft to Manching, Germany, for flight envelope expansion at the end of August — a milestone that was previously expected early this year, but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Markus Soeder with CityAirbus eVTOL
Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder gets a closer look at the CityAirbus eVTOL during a visit to Airbus Helicopters on July 20.

The 2.2-tonne, fully electric CityAirbus is one of two eVTOL demonstrators that Airbus has revealed publicly. The other is the tilt-wing Vahana, which concluded its flight test campaign in November 2019. Airbus has said that insights from both programs will inform its future approach to eVTOL aircraft for urban air mobility.

In a tweet thanking Söder for his visit, Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even noted, “Support for current and future business like CityAirbus is crucial for the preservation of high tech jobs.”

Last month, Even tweeted a video of another CityAirbus test flight at the facilities in Donauwörth.

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  1. Curious how the lower props are ducted, and the upper ones are not. Perhaps it’s so they can test performance of ducted vs. non-ducted by running one set of props and not the others.

    It will sure be interesting to see these in the air.

    1. Lance, good question…I think they are too axially short to get the boost to efficiency you might expect from a “true” duct. Anyway, true ducts are of questionable value for multirotors which are intended to reach significant horizontal velocity, rather than just hover. Nevertheless you see these features on many e-Vtol concepts. I think it’s better to think of these as “prop guards” … and it’s worth questioning their value. To be effective “guards” for the props, they need to be stiff enough to absorb significant impact energy without fouling the rotor, despite the very limited tip clearance. This can work for 200g hobby drones but is very very hard to achieve at this massive scale with an acceptable mass penalty. Instead, I think they are intended to “guard” people on the ground from the props. E-vtol concepts tend to start from the industrial/product designer image of what such an aircraft should look like, with significant priority given to the visual appeal. In the animations, they land like butterflies on your lawn in the suburbs, while children and dogs frolick around, a tanned hipster jumps out, and the e-vtol soars quietly away. The reality is that these are screaming 2-tonne rotorcraft with high disc loading (=downwash velocity) which can only maneuver or resist wind gusts by changing attitude (that is, tilting the whole aircraft) … so they should never take-off or land anywhere near people… “prop guards” or not!

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