Pipistrel Electrics in America and France

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Pipistrel rolled out its new 801 at the UBER Elevate Summit in Washington, D. C. last week and is flying its Alpha Electro Trainer at the Paris Air Show all this week.

Launching the 801 at UBER Elevate

Dr. Tine Tomažič, Pipistrel’s Director of Research & Development, was a keynote speaker at the conference in Washington, D.C. on June 11, where he presented just enough to whet appetites for more on the coming 801 eVTOL design.  His final touch – presenting an ostensibly realistic recording of the 801’s sound, demonstrated how quiet the vehicle will be.

That’s accounted for by the eight fans being tuned to different frequencies, cancelling each other out like the dynamics in noise-cancelling headphones.  That’s just one of the design factors in a well-integrated design.  Its integrated lift system, embedded in the craft’s wings, help mitigate noise. The specially-shaped fans will operate at relatively low RPMs, another step in reducing noise.  Conceptual test vehicles of varying sizes helped refine the noise-control methodology.

Tine calls the new design “an aeroplane” because its fixed wing craft will rely on fairly conventional aerodynamics to cruise at 160 knots or more for its battery-powered 50-mile range – enough to cross Los Angeles in 20 minutes.  801’s flight profile will include a 45-second lift phase, transition to high-speed cruise, and a 45-second descent phase, making the most of its qualities as an aeroplane and shortening the battery-draining lift portions of the flight.  The transition between lift and cruise phases is the most difficult part of flight, but this has been factored into the interface between the aeroplane’s wings and lift units.

In his talk, Tine described the baggage, both physical and emotional, we all carry. Nobody should get emotional at having to leave anything behind on the 801

In a move to reach “the next level of battery safety,” those batteries will be divided into four different packs of differing types to avoid the same failure modes in all four packs.

Another safety factor, passenger safety, comes from energy-absorbing cabin frames and seats.   The high wing and overhead fans enable easy and safe access to the cabin.  A “brain” from Honeywell is certifiable and ready for autonomy.  That factor will ensure safe passage even on unpiloted trips

Tine says vehicle technology will be available sooner than regulatory approval, with technology ready to fly in commercial service by 2025 or earlier, and regulations following by 2030.  Tine added that the 801 will truly be ready when one’s family and friends want to fly on one.

Meanwhile at the Paris Air Show

Pipistrel shows off their Alpha Electro trainer at the DGAC (the French Civil Aviation Authority) stand every day, and makes demonstration flights every afternoon through the end of this week’s air show.

Ivo Boscarol (right) shows the Pipistrel trainer to Mrs. Violeta Bulc, the European Commisioner for Transport.

On Monday, Pipistrel’s stand was visited by the President of French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) Mr. Patrick Gandil and Mrs. Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Transport.  Pipistrel’s General Manager  Ivo Boscarol  was happy to explain the fine points of the little trainer to such distinguished guests.

On Monday Mr. Jérome Coornaert wrung the little plane out, doing almost everything the Boeing’s and Airbus’s did, but ever so much more quietly.  Pipistrel highlights this on their web site: “Alpha Electro is totally quiet, the only sound it makes is the whisper of propeller moving through the air. Electricity makes no noise!

“It’s so quiet that even at full speed, people sometimes don’t even realize it is flying straight over their heads”

Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro was allowed to fly from its home field at Toussus le Noble across the City of Light to Le Bourget Field

French authorities showed une grande sign of trust in the Slovenian company and its electric trainer.  They allowed it to fly across the center of Paris on its way from Toulouse to Le Bourget Field.

Dr. Tine Tomažič will present his thoughts on Urban Air Mobility at the Sustainable Aviation Symposium, October 7 and 8 at the University of California at Berkeley.  Come and share a first look at a machine that may command urban skies in the next few years.


Recycling and Reusing Carbon in Jet Fuel

ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), is recycling and reusing CO2 to make jet fuel as part of a carbon-neutral process.  This is not a new idea, with others’ approaches to this detailed in earlier blog entries here, here, and here.

The research plant is located on the roof of the ETH building on Sonneggstrasse. © ETH Zurich / Alessandro Della Bella

Centered on a solar collector/reactor on the roof of ETH’s Machine Laboratory building in Zurich, researchers have “developed a novel technology that produces liquid hydrocarbon fuels exclusively from sunlight and air and have demonstrated the entire thermochemical process chain under real field conditions.”

Extracting CO2 and water directly from ambient air through an adsorption/desorpton process, the system feeds these free materials into a solar reactor that is at the focus of the parabolic reflector that heats them to 1,500° Celsius.

A cerium oxide structure in the reactor enables a redox (oxidation-reduction reaction)* cycle, with syngas an end product.  This gas can be processed into a commercially-viable hydrocarbon fuel through conventional methanol or Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, according to GreenCarCongress.

The research has led to alliances with a relatively new company, Synhelion, and with an existing firm, Climeworks.

Synhelion claims to use the full solar spectrum to deliver high-temperature heat to chemical reactors.  This bypasses “efficiency-limiting conversion steps of electricity generation, electrolysis, and reverse water gas shift (RWGS),” and enables 24/7 fuel production.

Synhelion’s tower near Madrid will produce commercial lots of liquid jet fuel

Synhelion works with ETH with the proof-of-concept reactor in Zurich and a large-scale solar-tower project near Madrid, Spain as part of the European Union Sun-to-Liquid program.  The team has even bigger plans in mind.  Philipp Furler, Director (CTO) of Synhelion and a former doctoral student in Steinfeld’s group, says, “A solar plant spanning an area of one square kilometer could produce 20,000 liters of kerosene a day.  Theoretically, a plant the size of Switzerland – or a third of the Californian Mojave Desert – could cover the kerosene needs of the entire aviation industry. Our goal for the future is to efficiently produce sustainable fuels with our technology and thereby mitigate global CO2 emissions.”

Climeworks removes CO2 from the air with a simple filter system and heats the captured carbon dioxide and compresses it for customers who, “Utilize this atmospheric CO2 in carbonated drinks, in agriculture or for producing carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels and materials.”

* Corrosionpedia (it’s real) explains Redox Reaction:

In the oxidation process, an atom loses its electrons and obtains a charge that corresponds to the adjustment of the oxidation number. The atom or substance that facilitates the oxidation reaction is known as the oxidizing agent.

A reduction reaction is achieved whenever an atom gains electrons and obtains a charge which is a reduction of the oxidation number. The atom or element that initiates a reduction reaction is known as the reducing agent.

In order to understand redox reactions, one has to have an in-depth knowledge of the oxidation numbers of the atoms involved so that the product can be determined. Redox reactions are used in the process of presenting the entire reaction in the form of equations. Redox reactions can also be used to determine the physical states of the substances that are interacting. It must be noted that the half-reactions of redox reactions occur at the same time, so to suppress redox reactions, the half-reactions must first be balanced.”


Silent Air Taxi Competes for Commuters

A quandary is a state of perplexity or doubt, and people caught in one often devolve into depression or unhappiness.  Our quandary today comes from the announcement of the Silent Air Taxi, a fixed-wing, hybrid-powered, box-wing aircraft.  The quandary comes from whether it’s better to transport one’s self to a nearby small airport and hop on a low-slung commuter aircraft that requires only a 400-meter (1,312 feet, or about a quarter mile) runway.  Or, to call up an on-demand Urban Air Mobility device, use the urban infrastructure and hie one’s self to an Uber SkyPort or a Volocopter launch pad.

Comparison of train, car, and Silent Air Taxi times for 515-kilometer (319-road-mile) trip between Aachen and Mageburg, Germany

Its designers, mainly from Aachen, Germany’s academia and industry, point out that in Germany about 25-percent of the population lives within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the 378 small and medium-sized airports that meet the Silent Air Taxi’s takeoff requirements.   50-percent of the population lives within a 20-kilometer (12.4 mile) radius of such an airport.  If those seeking a quick trip from near home to a site 300 miles away have the price of a first-class rail ticket, they can arrive at the destination less than two hours later.

Since Germany covers 137,847 square miles (about 85-percent of the size of California), the 378 airports each support an area of about 365 square miles (less than an 19-mile square).  The choice will be different for commuters living in an urban area will be closer to Uber-based eVTOL centers, with an established infrastructure to get them to the local Skyport.  Those in more rural or suburban areas who wish to visit distant locales will probably choose something like the Silent Air Taxi.

The Silent Air Taxi

Planners and engineers at the RWTH Aachen (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen) Campus in northern Germany premised the design of their medium-range flyer on these ideas:

  • Pilot-free (on-demand / on-demand ), autonomous flight characteristics
  • Capacity of 4 people (plus pilot until these machines become autonomous)
  • Electric drive with range support ( range extender)
  • Range of 500 km. (310 miles)
  • Top speed of 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph)
  • Maximum Runway requirement <600 meters (1,968 feet)
  • Price less than 000 € ($280,300, or about the cost of a recent, used four-seat Cessna Skyhawk)

Apologies for the video being only available in German, but it gives some idea of the German competition.

Organizationally, the project is being driven by member of the RWTH, the Aachen University of Applied Sciences and companies in the aviation industry such as MTU Aero Engines.  Professor Günther Schuh, who has developed urban electric delivery vehicles such as the StreetScooter, despite having a popular item (an English milk company recently bought 200 for silent deliveries), the DHL-based company has been looking for a customer.

Schuh has an interesting, and seemingly contradictory interview (perhaps his own quandary) in the on-line journal, Clean Energy Wire.

“Which use cases do you have in mind for your “Silent Air Taxi”?

In this image, Silent Air Taxi has fixed wheels under lower wing, simplifying landing gear.  Craft will be built by e.Sat GmbH, which  hopes to build 1,000 examples

“We have important mobility demands for urgent medical supplies, surveillance, fighting crime, and other such missions. Accepting congestion on our two-dimensional traffic routes is much easier if you can use the third dimension in an emergency – whatever that may be.

“So, you’re not advocating using the third dimension for mass transport?

“It’s impossible to create a means of mass transport in the air. Using our air space can only cover about 3 to 5 percent of total mobility requirements, but it can help eliminate 50 percent of bottlenecks. This is why the third dimension is so valuable.”

Time line including first flight (2022) and production (2024)

The interview concludes with some thoughts we might all ponder:

“Above all, the use of airspace is a social issue. To be out of reach for supply or rescue, or unprotected against crime – these are no comfort issues. It’s not about having some luxury item delivered to your doorstep two hours after ordering it. That’s possible, but that’s not why I’m doing this. It’s about social services, where the third dimension is indispensable because there are too many traffic situations that don’t offer alternatives.

“But we must use it in a way that doesn’t harm anyone. Today, the use of airspace harms people because it makes a lot of noise. Only a few privileged people are being transported quickly for whatever reason, and the rest only gets a massive dose of noise. But we have found a solution to this problem because our aircraft does not make noise, which means it could be a breakthrough for entering the third dimension in bottleneck situations.”


Vogi 1 eVTOL Transforms Passively

Canadian startup, the Coriolis g Corporation, defies the rules of classification with its Vogi 1 “passively coupled VTOL tiltrotor,” which the company describes as “a tilting quadrotor passively coupled to a winged airframe via a swivel mechanism”.

“View the only Continuously Variable Transition VTOL/FW (fixed wing) Aircraft in action.”

The Vogi 1 has demonstrated a novel design solution to achieve the maneuverability and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities of a traditional quadcopter with the efficiency of a traditional winged aircraft.  Its design allows passive transition from vertical flight or hovering to winged horizontal flight.  It does so without the benefit of algorithms or triple-redundancy controllers.  Coriolis g explains, “Without any active logic, the rotors pivot and swing from parallel to the ground to perpendicular, located above and below the wing.”  Note its ability to push backwards from a vertical dive at about the 1:20 point in the video.

An on-board camera view captures a close-up of what’s happening, but not necessarily how it’s happening.  Reader can get a better idea by turning to Coriolis g’s white paper describing in reasonable detail how they pulled it off.

Designers selected possible combinations of traditional configurations, which they classified as Tilt Rotor (TR), Tilt Wing (TW), Tail Sitter (TS), and Quadraplane (QP).  Coriolis’ designers chose a combination they call, “Pitch-Decoupled Tilt Rotor The solution we have developed is a disruptive departure from all existing designs.

“We propose a system that decouples the pitch rotation of the thrusters from the fixed wing frame thus allowing independent pitch rotation of the two airframes relative to each other. By decoupling the pitch frames of the two ’aircraft’ we can transition from VTOL to FW flight in a naturally stable manner and furthermore use the vertical thrusters as forward thrusters during winged flight. By decoupling the two stable systems we alleviate the risk of instability during transition and improve recovery from failure modes. The design also has a reduced number of moving parts and would be much easier to maintain than other tilt-rotor solutions considered to date.  Although it may be classified as tilt rotor system, the dynamic and operational characteristics are sufficiently different from the traditional actuated Tilt Rotor and this new approach is hereby classified as a new Pitch-Decoupled Tilt Rotor or alternatively Passively-Coupled Tilt Rotor.”

By having a fixed wing, Vogi 1 can fly faster than an ordinary quadrotor and achieve a greater range.  Even though the aircraft’s weight is greater because of the addition of a wing, the performance gains seem to offset the added mass.  Coriolis g points out, “This especially pays off during longer flights, where takeoff is an increasingly small percentage of the total flight, thereby taking advantage of the lifting surface for a greater fraction of the flight time.”

Vogi’s design allows for a cross between hovering and slow flight the designers call “loitering,” a low thrust exercise that uses little energy and enables an almost stationary persistence above a chosen site.  This would seem to make Vogi an ideal candidate for reconnaissance missions.

Because only the propulsion system pivots “to achieve the desired thrust vector, the fuselage does not rotate.”  Since passengers would stay in a constantly level frame of reference, the flight experience will be calmer.

It will be fascinating to see how Vogi’s makers translate their stable, but highly aerobatic machine into a people carrier.


Alaka’i Skai Levitates on Hydrogen

Alaka’I is Hawaiian for “the value of leadership” according to an island management consulting firm.  The word and the company have found a home in Boston, Massachusetts, where they look over the Alaka’i Skai, a hydrogen-powered sky taxi that will offer “point-to-any-point transportation that [is] safe, simple, zero-emissions, affordable and comfortable.”

Alala’i, founded by Brian Morrison, adds a hydrogen fuel cell hybrid-electric craft to the eVTOL market with a design by BMW-owned Designworks.    From above, it looks a bit like a water-skipper, probably an apt look considering its fuel.  Alaka’i emphasizes three points in its sales literature: simplicity, safety and the cleanness of its fuel and operation.

With several patents supporting the aircraft the machine supports its creators’ backgrounds, including 20 years with NASA.   Alaka’I claims the fuel cells are 95-percent reusable, the remaining five percent are 99-percent recyclable, with longer duration and range than its current competitors.  Its “simple” fuel system with three separate fuel cells enables its ability to carry up to 1,000 pounds in passengers or cargo.   Hydrogen has the highest specific energy of any practical fuel.  It can be refueled in 10 minutes, a significant benefit for repeated flights and speedy turnarounds.  Alaka’i Technologies Board Member Dr. Bruce Holmes points out, “Hydrogen has a few hundred times the energy density of the best of lithium ion battery technology.

Skai interior arranged in 1 plus 4 fashion provides a full view to each passenger

Alaka’i has done the numbers on indirect costs and sources or pollution, including gasoline or diesel truck transporting the otherwise clean fuel, and is devising methods to eliminate or reduce these indirect burdens.

Six 100-horsepower outrunner electric motors give built-in redundancy, and can power its 1,000-pound payload over four hours or 400 hundred miles at 118 mph.  Triple redundancy in its fuel system and advance control systems will help enable safer operation.  Skai promotes its development team for its “next-generation Fly-By-Light controls and FAA certified avionics. All of these components are certified and proven. In fact, some of these trusted technologies were originally developed by Skai team members for prominent aerospace and defense clients.”

Alaka’i Technologies, they explain, “is an emerging air mobility design and manufacturing company founded by Brian Morrison. The executive team has decades of aerospace development including NASA, Raytheon, Beech Aircraft, McDonnell Douglas, Hughes and more. The company is engineering proprietary, progressive air mobility solutions to offer point-to-any-point transportation that are safe, simple, zero-emissions, affordable and comfortable. The company plans ultimately to transform transportation through hydrogen-powered mobility.”

Unveiled in a non-flying version on May 29 at Newbury Park, California, the Alaka’i Skai caused NBC Los Angeles to say it “resembles an oversized drone crossed with a luxury SUV.”  The heavily-glazed cabin provides an excellent view, and designers even swept the motor arms to avoid blind spots above the passengers.

Many of our current technologies like fuel cells and solar cells have 19th-century origins and we’re just now figuring out how to put them to use.  Morrison points out, “We’re demonstrating what we began over 20 years ago together at NASA: truly point-to-any-point, safe, affordable distributed on-demand air mobility.”

Alaka’i says it’s planning its first test flight sometime in 2019 near its headquarters in Massachusetts.


Ampaire Flies Hybrid Test Bed

Ampaire, a tech startup based in California, announces, “Our mission is to be the world’s most trusted developer of practical, compelling electric aircraft from short-haul cargo to supersonic passenger transport.”  They also claim to have demonstrated the “highest-capacity electric aircraft ever flown” last Thursday, June 5th at Camarillo, California.  The company hopes to “have regular commercial service for passengers and cargo as soon as 2021.”

Using a Cessna 337 Skymaster was a canny move for the young firm, giving them ample weight-carrying ability to have a petrol engine in the nose and a dual-Emrax motor system behind the cabin and between the twin tail booms. The push-pull arrangement adds to engine-out safety with no assymetrical thrust as on a conventional light twin.  The Skymaster’s six-passenger cabin will enable profitable flights for charter work.  A standard 337 has an empty weight of 2,655 pounds and a payload of 1,745 pounds for a gross weight of 4,400 pounds.

With four to six passengers, including a pilot, there should be ample ability to carry a “small battery pack” noted by Ampaire, although it looks fairly substantial in the company’s rendering.  The hybrid configuration will enable fairly long flights and ample reserves, especially comforting over water routes.

Ampaire battery pack doesn’t seem all that small

And that’s what Ampaire is counting on in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Scotland and other locales, among no less than 14 small airlines signed up to use Ampaire’s hybrid drive system.  Mokulele Airlines in Hawaii will start with Cessna 337 test flights and eventually expand to Cessna Caravan conversions. A Scottish airline based on the Isle of Skye (how appropriate) will work with Ampaire conversions of its DeHavilland Twin Otters, and  will collaborate with Vieques Air Link, a regional airline in Puerto Rico.  AIN online reports that, “Combined, Ampaire has signed 16 letters of interest with 15 other airlines across the world.”

Kevin Noertker, CEO of Ampaire, sees a bright future.  “Imagine that in just a few years you will be able to buy a ticket for a flight that is clean, quiet and inexpensive. Ampaire is proud to lead the aviation industry in transportation electrification, and we recognize the importance of electric aviation for climate change and community connectivity.”

Accelerators are funding operations encouraging new technology, and two of the many accelerators are enthused about last week’s first flight.  Matt Petersen, CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), says, “Ampaire and their Ampaire 337 flight test program further proves that Los Angeles is a cleantech hub that attracts investment and game-changing innovation for climate solutions.” Van Espahbodi, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Starburst Accelerator adds, “Aircraft are a significant contributor to both local and global emissions. Electric and hybrid-electric aircraft will reduce GHG emissions and air pollution even as more and more goods and people fly.”

Ampaire Tailwind will have well developed and tested power system from a multiplicity of aircraft

With so many small airlines to work with and so many potential testbeds, Ampaire will be well prepared by the time it flies its own design, the sleek Headwind. 


Electric Flight.eu reports on the new Flight Design F2e, a two-seater and first of an expanding range of aircraft that might even include hydrogen-powered craft.  The smaller Flight Design CT has been flying for over 18 years, and over 2,000 have been sold, but typical of the small aircraft industry, Flight Design has been assimilated under a larger entity, Lift Air.

Working with Siemens for the new craft’s motor and APUS* for assistance with design and certification, Flight Design has created a light sport aircraft that provides safety, comfort and good performance on either gasoline or electric power.

While the gasoline-powered version will probably be held to LSA weights, the electric model will have a reported maximum weight of 1,100 kilograms (2,420 pounds).  This comes from a probably substantial airframe that can be modified to carry four passengers, or batteries that will allow a promised two-to-three-hour endurance.  (Even though this was reported in two sources, your editor has qualms about this weight.)

Although the video shows CTLS nose art proclaiming that 2,000 have been sold, the company ran into financial difficulties and was purchased by another German company, Lift Holdings, according to Flying Magazine.  This allows for the resumption of work on the C4, a Part 23-certified four-seater.  Flight Design will now be called Flight Design General Aviation GmbH.

Flight Design USA president Tom Peghiny told Flying, “We’re excited about this.  It is the same company as before with new upper management. The first order of business will be increasing the engineering staff.”

Flight Design’s F2 series includes one-piece wing with anti-stall/spin cuffs

Safety comes in passive and active form on the F2.  All F2s have a one-piece wing meeting CS-23 standards and ASTM F3189 low-speed flight characteristics that resist spins and provide ample stall warning.  Another passive feature, the safety cell, “is intended to protect occupants in case of a crash by incorporating a crumple zone.” Completing the automotive motif, “The cabins will also be equipped with features such as cupholders, USB ports, armrests, and electrically adjustable seats.”  More importantly, Amsafe airbags for the pilot and copilot will pop out of slots in the instrument panel in the unlikely event of a prang.  Although they add $4,000 to $5,000 per aircraft, they will add a priceless level of assurance for the occupants.

Slots in instrument panel hold Amsafe airbags

AIN reports, “Flight Design said the new family is designed to accommodate a range of propulsion types, also including hybrid and hydrogen.”  These are certainly heady ambitions for the newly re-organized firm.

First flight tests seem to show a bright future for the electric craft, flown for the first time May 29 and publicly on June 5 at Strausberg Airport.

Lars Jorges, CEO of Flight Design, reported, “The energy consumption for take-off and cruise was in the expected range, system temperature lower than expected and the aircraft flew easily and safely.”

Dr. Frank_Anton Tweeted,

“#ElectricFlight is quiet and gentle: @flightdesignct presents new proof-of-concept aircraft #F2e at Strausberg Airport to public today – powered by @Siemens #ElectricPropulsion system #EPUIII. Congratulations to the #flightdesign, #apusflightservice and Siemens #eAircraft teams!”

The Tweet, containing a short video of the F2 whooshing quietly by drew 3,824 views, 33 retweets, and 100 likes.  Interest is growing.

*APUS is an EASA certified Design Organization that offers high standard aviation engineering services. Main topics of our development are innovative aviation propulsion systems, aeromechanical design, structural design, CAD and certification of aviation systems.


Another Kind of Skyport for Volocopter

Following last year’s Uber Elevate Summit, one came away with the idea that future landing areas for Urban Air Mobility vehicles would be multi-story and expansive, with connections readily available to other forms of commuting.  Volocopter, working with Skyports , has Volo-Ports coming, with the first one due to open by the end of this year.  The “stunning designs” for these landing pads will come from the agency Brandlab.   Drawings released so far show that Voloports will be simple and modular, enablihg their distribution in many locations or clustered in one centralized facility.

Introduced at the Berlin Green Festival, Volo-Ports appear to be open, friendly places where one can be introduced effortlessly to the joys of taking Volocopters to distant places.  Volocopters, smaller than the planned five-passenger vehicles assumed for Uber Elevate rides, will eventually carry two, once certification requirements allow autonomous operation.

Brandlab together with Graft Architects and Arup won the Volocopter international tender to produce the Volo-Port design. These will blend with their surrounding landscape and environment

The first Volo-Port, to be constructed in Singapore will open for scheduled flight trials in the second half of this year.

This prototype will incorporate all the features of what Volo-Ports will display to the public in subsequent locations.

According to the partners, these will include:

  • Enabling real-life testing of the full customer journey to perfect the passenger experience;
  • Showcasing planned customer services, including pre-flight checks, passenger lounges and boarding procedures;
  • Allowing practical testing of ground operations and services, including battery swaps and charging, maintenance, safety and security;
  • Providing the opportunity for authorities and industry regulators to interact with the infrastructure and provide feedback before they are asked to approve the final design.

One point of interest caught this editor’s eye.  “Vertiports are the only physical infrastructure required for air taxis to commence operations in cities in the near future. Volo-Ports are designed to provide passengers with a seamless air taxi experience that is safe, secure, and relaxing. They will merge with their surroundings, allowing passengers and passers-by to see through the whole structure.”

Volo-Ports will be open,welcoming environments

The openness and easy flow of foot traffic through a Volo-Port are apparent in the renderings.  The Ports’ imminent arrival on the scene seems to be a done deal.  Three principals involved agree on this.

Alex Zosel, Co-Founder of Volocopter explains. “Receiving the commercial license for air taxi aircraft is a question of time not possibility. We are thus focusing on shaping the necessary ecosystem around UAM including air traffic management, city regulation and the take-off and landing infrastructure. It takes visionary partners like Skyports and Brandlabs willing to make investments to actively shape the future of urban air mobility.  Once regulation comes through on the aviation and city level – and this will be sooner than most think – we will be ready to take off.”

Volo-Ports will be modular to allow installation separately or in clusters

Duncan Walker, Managing Director of Skyports, adds, “Each individual Volo-Port is designed so that it can stand alone or connect to other ports in numerous formations, enabling rapid deployment and scalability. We have analysed the available spaces and movement dynamics in city centers across the world and recognize that infrastructure is a key enabler for the emerging UAM market. We are delighted to be building the world’s first operational Volo-Port in partnership with Volocopter.”

Linda Stannieder, Co-Founder and CEO of Brandlab, explains. “Mobility patterns in cities worldwide are changing rapidly – seamless transitions from one mode to another are crucial for transport efficiencies and changing passenger demands. Our design of the architecture, as well as all services along the whole customer journey, link ground to air infrastructure in the smoothest way possible. Passengers experience the connection to the sky through our design. We aim to build trust and create excitement.”

It will be exciting, indeed, to see this new infrastructure becoming part of a cleaner, greener environment.


Clean Jet Fuel from the Air?

What if we could suck carbon from the air, make clean jet fuel out of it, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using this fuel in our airliners?  That’s a dream pursued by many researchers, and recently Rotterdam the Hague Airport announced a study to sort out the plausibility of such a plan.  First, though, we need to look at the numbers for how much fossil fuel would have to be replaced.

These are Big Numbers

How much fuel goes into a large jetliner?  How efficiently is it used?  These are matters of concern to airline executives on a profit-and-loss basis, and to all of us on an environmental basis.  Let’s look at the Boeing 787 Dreamliner variants for an idea of how efficient a modern airliner can be.      The 787-8 burns 4,900 kilograms (10,780 pounds) per hour or Jet A, while the larger 7879 consumes 5,600 kilograms (12,320 pounds) per hour.

Converting pounds (the way the military and airlines count fuel use) to gallons, a conservative reading of 6.8 pounds per gallon shows that the 787s consume 1,596  to 1,812 gallons per hour.  The airplane can hold up to 330 people depending on configuration.  This makes fuel burn under six gallons per hour per passenger.  Try driving 550 miles on six gallons in your family car.   Most hybrids can’t manage 91 miles per gallon even while being feather footed.  So, large airliners can be very efficient.

Smaller airliners, such as the 737, range in capacity from 110 to 189, but run shorter routes than aircraft like the Dreamliner.  They therefore use more fuel for more takeoffs and many have earlier, less efficient engines.  Still,  As efficient as jet airliners can be compared to even a Prius on a passenger-mile basis – we are burning a lot of fuel and creating tons of emissions.  100,000 flights a day worth.

Rotterdam’s The Hague Airport has imitated a study for production of renewable jet fuel from the air itself.  Noting that jet aircraft cannot immediately switch from fossil fuels to electric or other alternative, the airport explains the rationale for the new project.  “The aviation industry is an emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) and air travel continues to increase. This also applies to Rotterdam The Hague Airport, where the number of passengers keeps growing every year. Unlike cars, airplanes cannot switch to electric or hydrogen propulsion in the short-term. Rotterdam The Hague Airport is therefore proud to kick-start the realization and commissioning of this plant for the production of renewable jet fuel from air.”

Retrieving CO2 from the air and “upcycling” it into jet fuel is meant to reduce the total CO2 in the ari

With Innovation as its middle name, the Rotterdam Hague Innovation Airport (RHIA) is joined by SkyNRG, which fashions itself as the market leader for aviation fuel solutions.  Transavia, a budget airline based in the Netherlands, has announced it will be the first customer for the products produced.   SkyNRG will be producing clean aviation fuel on-site at RHIA, at least partly from CO2 pulled from the surrounding atmosphere.   Partners expect to crank out about 1,000 liters (264.17 U. S. gallons) of renewable jet fuel per day, a vert small drop in the very large bucket of overall need.

Steps Toward cleaning the air start with a Climeworks direct-air capture technology.  Sunfire electrolyzers transform the captured gas into syngas, and then that synthetic gas is turned into synthetic hydrocarbons through a Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, “enabled by Ineratec.”  .” Finally, EDL converts synthetic hydrocarbons into jet fuel and oversees the overall process and plant integration.

Architectural integration by Rotterdam based Urban Crossovers & Blueroom will ensure that the plant is part of the overall RHIA campus and fit in both its size and in its objectives.  “Their web site explains, “Projects range from funding concepts, design brief development, building concepts and urban concepts to energy landscapes, creating crossovers of scale between CO-2 exhaust reduction, CO-2 removal, sustainable energy generation, innovative food production and increasing bio diversity.”

The overall project “…Is facilitated by the foundation Rotterdam The Hague Innovation Airport (RHIA), which was established by the airport and the City of Rotterdam. The foundation focuses on promoting four issues – Entrepreneurship, Energy & Environment, Education, and Emergency – through several innovative projects. The study on renewable jet fuel from air is the first of these projects.”

If the partners are successful, a new means of pulling jet fuel from jet exhaust (since the project is on the airport) may become reality.  Scalability, obviously, we be a major consideration.  CO2 is available in great abundance.  Whether it can be collected and converted into something cleaner than its source remains to be seen, but does offer some hope for a cleaner future.


A 2/3-Scale XTI TriFan 600 Hovers Successfully

XTI’s TriFan 600 recently flew as a TriFan 665, for the 65-percent test concept vehicle.  There are good reasons for a first flight on this reduced scale, including being able to use smaller motors and batteries, less material, and possibly simplified systems.

On May 8, 2019, XTI Aircraft announced that they had successfully completed the first test flights of its 65% scale prototype of the TriFan 600 VTOL aircraft:  The 2/3 concept machine, built on the local Experimental Aircraft Association’s turf, elicits some wonder because none of the chapter’s recent newsletters or Facebook posts mentioned that this project was underway.  Having worked in a design/build architectural-engineering firm, your editor knows all too well what the phrase “confidential client” means.  Chapter 512, knowing the TriFan was on the field, held that confidentiality well.  Only XTI itself made any public pronouncements about the project.

XTI 665 hovers with all four wheels off the ground. Although tethered, it apparently was docile in its behavior

According to Transport UP, “During testing early this month, the 65% scale prototype of the TriFan 600  completed multiple takeoffs, hover, and landings. These flights successfully tested and validated the electric motors, battery power system, ducted fan propulsion, flight controls, other electrical systems and instrumentation. Although this flight did not include the transition between vertical and fixed wing flight or horizontal flight, XTI is already planning these future tests at a designated UAS site.”

XTI Chief Executive Officer Robert LaBelle commented, “This is the moment the entire XTI team, our investors, customers, and many others have been waiting for and working toward. In one year, we have progressed from conceptual design to a flying prototype.  The aircraft proved to be stable in hover and had no problems throughout several runs.”

XTI has amassed over 90 orders for the $6.5 million aircraft, representing about $585 million in future revenue, and even raised $1.5 million from an equity crowdfunding campaign on Startengine.  Robert LaBelle and George Bye explain the fine points of the design and its relatively low operating costs.

XTI and eVTOL News explain that, “the TriFan 600 is a six-seat, hybrid-electric, fixed-wing airplane that uses three ducted fans to power the aircraft from vertical takeoff and landing to 340 kt (630 km/h) and a range of 650 nm (1,200 nm) for VTOL or 1,200 nm (2,200 km) when operating from a runway.”

The full size airplane will span 37.7 ft (11.5 m) with a fuselage 38.7 ft (11.8 m) long. The two wing-mounted ducts will have single 6 ft (1.8 m) diameter propellers powered by two 350 hp (260 kW) electric motors and two 5 ft (1.5 m) diameter co-axial ducted propellers located in the aft fuselage with one motor for each propeller.  Trek Aerospace designed and built the ducted fans and propellers and oversaw assembly of the 2/3-scale proof-of-of concept vehicle.  MGM Compro supplied electric motors and controllers.

XTI’s TriFan 600 will have a luxurious interior for its passengers

As George Bye explains in the video, a single 1,000 shp (745 kW)-class Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft engine will power three generators in the hybrid-electric propulsion system.

Further, untethered tests will take place at the Deseret UAS Center in Tooele, Utah, and full-size XTIs will be delivered to customers beginning in 2024, ready to take off from corporate rooftops.