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The U.K.-based eVTOL developer Vertical Aerospace has unveiled its latest model, called “Seraph,” with a video showing the uncrewed aircraft in flight.
Seraph, which performed its maiden flight at Llanbedr Airfield in Wales on Aug. 22, can reportedly carry loads up to 250 kilograms (550 pounds) and reach speeds up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour). The fully electric aircraft was built to test new technologies and systems for integration into an upcoming passenger model, expected in early summer 2020.
“Our ultimate goal is to get towards our certified aircraft, which will launch next year. And some things you just can’t do by computer simulation; sometimes you need to be able to build the actual aircraft to be able to learn from [it],” explained Vertical Aerospace communications manager Verity Richardson.
Richardson said the aircraft performed over a dozen test flights, both tethered and untethered, before the flight test campaign ended for the winter, allowing the team “to understand how various complex interactions work in real life. So we’ve learned a lot through the flight test program, and we have a good understanding of where we need to go from here.”
The design is a significant departure from Vertical Aerospace’s first full-scale aircraft, which flew in 2018. That vehicle had four ducted propellers arranged low around the fuselage. Seraph instead has six pairs of counter-rotating props mounted on arms extending from the roof of the aircraft, giving the vehicle much more redundancy.
“The first aircraft was effectively a proof of concept,” said Richardson. “[Seraph] is a lot more robust, so we’ve been able to do things like rotor-out testing, which would have been impossible on the first aircraft.” She said that when the flight test team performed that testing, “you could hardly tell — so it’s really great to know that those steps towards greater redundancy have paid off.”
Seraph also features a unique passive cooling system, which uses waste air from the rotors to push air over radiators that cool the battery. According to Richardson, the liquid-cooled system allows the aircraft to operate in a wider range of environmental conditions: “For instance, a lot of these aircraft can’t fly in damp weather, whereas ours, as long as it’s light rain, then we’re perfectly fine to fly in it. Which is fortunate, because Wales is not the sunniest of places!”