Home' Asian Aviation : AAV February 2019 Contents 18 AsianAviation | February 2019
URBAN AIR MOBILITY
one billion more than today, it notes. Urban dwellers will account
for 60 percent of the world’s population which will put further strain on
the road transportation network. Air taxis will add a “third dimension”,
says EHang. They take off and land vertically, require minimal space,
are environmentally friendly, with high-performance batteries and
short charging times, EHang says. AAVs will also be able to transport
urgent medical supplies or conduct high-risk operations.
“Flying to work instead of being stuck in traffic jams, this has al-
ready become reality in some regions of Asia and we wish to make
it possible in the rest of the world,” says Hu Huazhi, EHang founder,
chairman and CEO.
EHang is already active in aerial drones, with an aerial drone food
delivery service operational in Guangzhou in conjunction with a local
food store. The EHang quadrotor delivery drone can fly 40km/h,
carrying 5kg over 7km.
German company Volocopter has selected Singapore as the ven-
ue for the next round of flight tests for its urban air mobility vehicle.
The Volocopter is an emission-free, electri-
cally-powered aircraft that combines heli-
copter and drone technologies. Designed
specifically for inner-city missions, the eVTOL
(electrical VTOL) vehicle takes off and lands
vertically and is capable of carrying two peo-
ple just under 30km.
The vehicle looks like a helicopter but fea-
tures drone technology supporting stable
flight and allowing it to manoeuvre through
micro turbulences around tall buildings. The
manufacturer says it is also quiet, with no
noise typically heard over the background
noise of a city at a flight height of 100m. It features 18 rotors, fully re-
dundant power trains and an intelligent autonomous control system.
Flight trials in Singapore are planned for the second half of 2019
in a project supported by the Singapore Ministry of Transport, the
Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Economic
Development Board. The partners are currently working together to
determine a suitable flight test location, says Volocopter. The flight
trials will be used to validate and verify the ability of the Volocopter
to operate in Singapore’s urban environment, followed by a series
of public demonstration flights.
Singapore, which was selected due to its advanced technology
and urban development expertise, has a highly-efficient and af-
fordable public transport network, but is challenged by a growing
population and limited space for further expansion.
Bruchsal, Germany-based Volocopter, which has Daimler and
Intel among its investors, has held a preliminary permit to fly from
German authorities since 2016 and is hoping to receive a full com-
mercial license from the European Aviation Safety Authority within
two to five years. The vehicle has flown regularly in Germany and in
September 2017 it performed a public manned test flight in Dubai.
The company is looking at developing a whole ecosystem to
make air taxis a reality. It sees air taxis integrated into the existing
transportation system, providing additional mobility for up to 10,000
passengers per day with a single point-to-point connection.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the Cora electric, autonomous air
taxis are under development by Zephyr Airworks. US company Kitty
Hawk established the company in New Zealand in December 2016
to work with the New Zealand government, business partners and
the community. In October 2018, Zephyr announced a partnership
with Air New Zealand aimed at bringing autonomous, electric air
travel to the country.
Cora takes off and lands like a helicopter. It has the potential to “take
off from a rooftop and hop across a city, to transform a parking lot into
an air pad in your neighbourhood. You wouldn’t have to know anything
about flying a plane, Cora could fly for you,” says the manufacturer.
The manufacturer looked worldwide for a partner to develop
the concept and ended up in New Zealand due to the country ’s
innovative and forward-thinking regulatory ecosystem, it says.
Its partnership with Air New Zealand came
about through the airline’s commitment to
new technologies that make life easier and
its interest in cleaner energy travel solutions.
Japan is hoping to commercialise air taxis
as early as 2020. Japan’s Ministries of Econ-
omy, Trade and Industry and Land, Infra-
structure, Transport and Tourism launched a
Future Air Mobility initiative in August 2018,
with industry partners including Airbus, All
Nippon Airways, Boeing, Japan Airlines,
NEC, Subaru, Toyota and Uber.
The initiative is designed to bring togeth-
er stakeholders in the public and private sectors to realise flying
vehicles. The government sees flying vehicles as a solution to
traffic congestion, as well as a new means of mobility for people
living on islands and mountainous areas, and for carrying patients
to emergency first aid or in disaster situations.
A number of Japanese flying car projects are already under way,
including the Toyota-backed Cartivator SkyDrive and Tetra Aviation’s
Tetra 3. Cartivator is aiming for the launch of its prototype vehicle
by the end of 2019, with the vehicle ready to light the Olympic flame
at the Tokyo Olympics in July 2020.
Japan’s Tetra 3 air vehicle has made it through to the second
phase of the Boeing-sponsored GoFly competition, which is a two-
year, US$2 million international competition to create a personal
flying device. Hundreds of entries were considered by a panel of
industry experts, with Tetra the only Asia-Pacific candidate in 10
The entries are tasked with creating a prototype that can safely
carry a person 20 miles without refuelling or recharging with vertical
or near-vertical take-off and landing capability. Four teams will be
selected as the best prototypes in the phase II, which will close in
March, with the winner to be revealed in late 2019.
Flying to work instead of
being stuck in traffic jams,
this has already become
reality in some regions
HU HUAZHI, EHANG
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