Other notable aircraft

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Although the aerospace industry has already created working eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) vehicles that resemble the traditional saucer in shape, there is still room for innovation to expand and enrich this category of vehicles.

The potential for innovation is far from being fully realised and the challenges facing designers, such as increasing range, improving energy efficiency and enhancing passenger safety, will continue to encourage engineers and developers to develop new solutions. In addition, there is room for innovation in the aesthetic and functional aspects of eVTOL vehicles, which will allow them to become even more widespread in the future and change the current paradigms of urban mobility.

Skai

Alaka’i Technologies‘ eVTOL (electric take-off and landing vehicle) is powered by hydrogen rather than batteries, unlike most similar vehicles from other manufacturers. According to the company, the advantage of hydrogen propulsion is that the fuel cells are much lighter than batteries, so the eVTOL does not have to carry as much weight during flight, which is a big advantage for small aircraft.

Although the fuel cell solution is more expensive, the company expects the advantages to outweigh the disadvantages and eventually bring the operating costs down from the current $1,100 per hour to $800, Hugh Kelly, Alaka’i’s marketing director, told AIN.

With the fuel cells, eVTOLs will be less dependent on the Vertiport infrastructure, which also acts as a refuelling point, and will be able to fly in an environmentally friendly way using green hydrogen. Testing of the Skai prototype has already begun and the Federal Aviation Administration approval process has been launched, but no specific date has been set for the start of commercialisation of the vehicles.

The Skai will initially be used as a means of transporting passengers from airports to cities (and back), with the possibility of expanding its scope and even entering service as a ride-sharing service. As for the pricing of eVTOL travel, Kelly makes no secret of the fact that it could be much more expensive than road travel: he estimates that it will cost at least three times as much to take a taxi in the air as it does to travel by Uber.

Skai
Skai

FlyNow eCopter

In contrast, another company, FlyNow Aviation of Austria, sees eVTOLs as an affordable way for everyone to avoid or reduce the problems presented by urban travel: congested roads, air pollution from cars, and even the health risks of travelling on public transport (such as catching the flu). The manufacturer envisages the vehicles, which it calls eCopters, as relatively cheap and efficient aerial vehicles: eVTOLs have a coaxial drive with two propellers, making them look like small helicopters with a strange shape. The vehicles are also officially classified as electric helicopters, according to FlyNow.

Flynow eCopter
Flynow eCopter

The eCopters are planned to include single-seat, two-seat and hydrogen versions and will be used to transport cargo and people. FlyNow, like Alaka’i, does not believe that the age of fully autonomous, unmanned eVTOLs will arrive in the near future, so for now they are only making a manned version. FlyNow is currently in the middle of development, with a prototype already built and components being tested, but no flight tests have yet taken place.

Cavorite x7

The Cavorite x7 from Horizon Aircraft of Canada differs from its competitors not in its special design or propulsion, but in its capacity: the vehicle has a seating capacity of 7 and a range of 800 kilometres. This feature sets it apart from most VTOLs and eVTOLs, as these vehicles, or more specifically the latter, electric versions, often have a range of 100 kilometres or less, which is the distance they can travel on a single charge before needing to find a place to stop for a recharge or battery change.

Cavorite x7
Cavorite x7

This is not a huge problem for most manufacturers, as air taxi services with eVTOLs are intended for shorter trips within cities anyway, but long-haul flights would not be feasible with the smaller capacity aircraft. Although there are models of VTOLs with a range of 1000 km under development, Horizon is only considering the hybrid, not all-electric version as an initial solution, and will move to eVTOLs (with a similar range) as battery technology develops

The Cavorite x7’s wings, with special HOVR technology, incorporate propellers to help propel the vehicle, so it combines “the agility of helicopters with the power of conventional aircraft” according to the presentation. The propellers are automatically covered by a panel at a safe altitude, after reaching a speed of 115 km/h, and from then on the vehicle moves through the air like a normal airplane.

Landing can also be done in two ways: helicopter or eVTOL mode, with a small footprint for landing, or using a runway for arrival. The first version of the Cavorite x7 will therefore not be electric, but the company is keen to move to battery power as soon as possible.

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