Vertical Aerospace reveals its production eVTOL design: the VA-1X

Avatar for eVTOLBy eVTOL | August 26, 2020

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 16 seconds.

The U.K.-based eVTOL developer Vertical Aerospace has unveiled its design for the VA-1X, the winged aircraft it plans to take through certification.

Capable of carrying up to four passengers plus a pilot, the aircraft has a 15-meter (49-foot) wingspan and is 13 meters (43 feet) in length, a size compatible with existing helipads. Vertical Aerospace said the VA-1X will have a payload capacity of 450 kilograms (990 pounds) and travel up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) at speeds of up to 150 mph (240 km/h).

As depicted in an animation of the vehicle, the has four tilting, four-bladed propellers mounted in front of the wing that are used for both vertical and forward flight. Four pairs of coaxial, two-bladed lifting propellers at the rear of the wing assist with vertical take-offs and landings but are stowed in a fixed position for cruise.

Vertical Aerospace VA-1X over London
Vertical Aerospace is aiming to start commercial air taxi flights with the VA-1X in 2024. Vertical Aerospace Image

The fully electric VA-1X will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and has a target of being 30 times quieter than a helicopter thanks to its distributed propulsion system. Honeywell Aerospace will be supplying the aircraft’s fly-by-wire computers, and has signed a letter of intent to also provide a vehicle management system for the prototype.

Vertical Aerospace said it plans to commence build of the aircraft “shortly,” with flight testing starting in 2021 and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification targeted for 2024. The company is positioning the VA-1X as an air taxi that will save commuters time compared to ground transport, and cost compared to a helicopter flight.

Vertical Aerospace VA-1X Interior
The VA-1X will seat four passengers plus a pilot. Its fly-by-wire flight control systems will make the aircraft simple to fly, the company said. Vertical Aerospace Image

In a press release, Vertical Aerospace CEO Michael Cervenka stated, “eVTOL technology will revolutionize travel, combining the safety of commercial airlines with the disruptive environmental and cost benefits of the electrification of flight. With the launch of the VA-1X, we’re proud to be taking eVTOL one step closer to mass-market adoption, and supporting the next era of aviation.”

Vertical Aerospace has already flown two full-scale eVTOL demonstrators: a proof-of-concept vehicle in 2018, and the Seraph in 2019. Both were wingless multicopters inherently less efficient in design than the VA-1X, which has a wing to maximize speed and range.

The company has bases in Bristol and in the F1 cluster in Oxfordshire, and plans to manufacture the VA-1X in the U.K.

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  1. It will be a challenge to get enough battery cells in this machine to get anywhere the range that is being proposed. Any volume not being used for the cabin will have to be battery packs. I would be very interested in how much these proposed battery packs weigh. the battery pack in the seraph weighed 790 lbs. according to the cable science program, and was overheating. A sexy design however.

  2. Patrick
    Of course it is a challenge, however, that challenge is being met.
    There is a substantial pod, between each pair of electric motors, and this would be good place to locate the batteries because it is over the centre of lift, will minimise wing flex, keep cables to a minimum length and is empty otherwise wasted space!
    In 2018, Lithium ion battery technology was struggling to achieve energy densities of 200 to 250 Wh/kg, however, Lithium/Sulphur batteries, which have since 2004 been in development by Oxis Energy in Oxford, are now claimed to achieve energy densities of 400 Wh/kg. They also will be less expensive to manufacture because Sulphur is an abundant and low cost element.
    These will either permit a 40% reduction in weight or, more probably, a 60% increase in range.
    On 22 September 2020, Elon Musk is holding a conference called Battery Day, at which it is widely expected that he will announce 400kWh/kg batteries.
    Elon Musk has also expressed the opinion that an energy density of 400kWh/kg is needed for electric aircraft to be commercially operational.
    Within another 2 or 3 years energy densities of 500kWh/kg should be available.
    Hydrogen also is very promising, because it has a much higher energy density than kerosene, and it can be burnt in a turbine or used by a fuel cell to generate electricity.

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