Tecnalia demonstrates novel eVTOL prototype

Avatar for eVTOLBy eVTOL | July 22, 2019

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 31 seconds.

The Spanish research and technology development center Tecnalia has unveiled a prototype electric air taxi featuring four articulating quadrotor drones mounted on arms extending from the cabin.

Tecnalia eVTOL prototype
Tecnalia says its air taxi configuration “favors the stability, efficiency, precision and controllability of the cabin” to enhance passenger comfort. Tecnalia Photo

According to Joseba Lasa, head of Tecnalia’s Electric Aircraft Lab, this novel configuration — in which the drones move “independently but in a coordinated way” — allows the cabin to maintain its orientation regardless of speed. “This feature enhances the flying experience, providing a sensation similar to that of traveling by car or bus from a dynamic point of view,” he said.

Tecnalia recently demonstrated its prototype in flight in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain. Designed to transport one person or loads of up to 150 kilograms (330 pounds), the prototype has a cabin measuring 1.8 by two meters (six by 6.5 feet). It is designed to cover urban distances of up to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) in 15 minutes, which the company said will cover the transport requirements of urban centers in 85 percent of the world’s cities.

While Tecnalia is initially a targeting a cruise speed of 90 km/h (55 mph), it said the aircraft’s architecture could allow speeds of up to 190 km/h. Agustín J. Sáenz, deputy director for Tecnalia’s Market division, added that the aircraft could be scaled from one to four passengers “depending on the integration demanded in each city and for each service.”

Tecnalia expects that the end product will be autonomous, incorporating positioning and communications technologies used in other self-piloted vehicles. With precise landing and takeoff capabilities, the company envisions the vehicle maneuvering into “reduced spaces such as a parking space.”

“One possible operational model for this type of vehicle is that of a shared service, which would provide access to the aircraft when a user wishes to travel autonomously from one end of the city to another. They can also be used as urban goods transport vehicles or for fast access in case of an emergency,” said Sáenz.

Tecnalia said it is currently negotiating with various industrial partners to develop and industrialize the end product, with the aim of bringing it to market within five years. At the same time, the company added, it is in contact with various authorities involved in making the legislative changes required to enable this kind of urban air mobility.

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