In December, NASA conducted a crash test to simulate a less positive outcome of an eVTOL flight, and the results did not reflect well on the reliability of the vehicle or the accuracy of the preliminary simulations. It is true that the space agency did not use an existing model from a manufacturing company for the tests, but a partial prototype of its own design, whose only function was to participate in the test.
The machine had no wings or propellers, consisting only of the cabin, with the other units of the structure being represented by weights placed at appropriate points.
The test first assessed the condition of the seats and floor during a potential impact – observing that well-designed seats would absorb the impact and protect the occupants, and that the simulations were accurate enough to predict the expected consequences. In the second phase of the study, when the focus was on changes to the roof structure, things did not go so well: the roof collapsed completely and damaged the six dummies inside the vehicle. The computer modelling carried out in advance did not indicate such damage to the vehicle structure.
The data collected during the test could help in the future to design safer eVTOLs and also to create more accurate simulation models. NASA has been involved in eVTOL, or Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), programmes for many years to help the sector develop as quickly as possible. In 2021, tests were carried out with Joby Aviation to assess the acoustic impact and controllability of future air taxis.