Zeva Aero Introduces Z2 Wing-Body eVTOL Prototype
Zeva Aero, the company behind the flying saucer-shaped Zero eVTOL that made its inaugural test flight earlier this year, is working on a new prototype of its unique aircraft concept.
Zeva Aero is developing the distinctive, disc-shaped Zero eVTOL. It is intended to operate in conjunction with the company's SkyDock unit that would allow it to be parked and accessed on the sides of buildings.
Zeva (which stands for Zero Emissions-Electric Vertical Aircraft) was exhibiting as part of the Washington State stand in the U.S. Pavilion of the Dubai Airshow in 2019. There, CEO Stephen Tibbitts told FutureFlight that a full-scale version of the craft had started flight testing. He said the all-electric Zero would ultimately fly at up to 160 mph and have a 50-mile range, doubling within 10 years. Tibbitts said the craft is being flown "with a dummy right now," but with a human on board the aircraft will include a whole-vehicle parachute. Also, the craft is tethered for its initial flight tests. "We need to get a few more tethered tests under our belt first," said Tibbitts.
He also said that the company "would love to have a partner, both for manufacture and for funding," but his focus at present is "to finish our application for NASA's Grand Challenge."
The price of the Zero is currently pegged at $225,000, and Tibbitts said the company is accepting $5,000 deposits from interested buyers.
Tibbitts said his interest in eVTOLs started in 2004 when he flew a Cessna 172 but discovered that, around Seattle, many of the airfields had "vanished."
The conclusion he came to was that if general aviation is going to have a future, it is going to have to change—and in 2005 Tibbitts said he wrote a paper for NASA proposing eVTOLs as the future. Thus, he sees himself as one of the visionaries behind the current boom in interest.
On September 17, 2020, Zeva Aero announced a merger with Fab Lab LLC, gaining manufacturing assets including CNC machines, electronics lab equipment, computing resources, and carbon fiber printing capabilities. Having taken over the leasehold of the acquired company's facility, ZEVA also gains the revenue from Fab Lab's existing manufacturing contracts. The company also says it has "sponsorship" arrangements with General Plastics, Microsoft Azure, DB Skimco, and Ansys.
On August 4, 2021, the company launched a $1.07 million crowdfunding campaign through the StartEngine platform, with shares priced at $4 with a minimum investment of $200. In a pitch to investors, Zeva said it aims to sell 500 vehicles to customers in the emergency medical and military markets by 2025. It estimates that this would generate revenues of $125 million, implying a price per vehicle of $250,000. It also aims to market the vehicle for personal transportation use and also for air taxi operations.
In the StartEngine presentation, Zeva reported that it has built a full-scale prototype and that this is now being used for flight tests. The nine-strong engineering team has occupied a 14,000 square-foot test facility that it will use for indoor tethered flight testing.
Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.
FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:
The disc-shaped design and plans for docking the aircraft on the sides of buildings seems very ambitious. Until a clear development timeline is published and it has serious backers and orders, it is hard to determine the chances of the Zero coming to market.
The launch of a crowdfunding campaign in August 2021 suggests that the company is looking to step up development work on the program. It appears to have sufficient funding to cover the costs of existing test facilities and work, but has not established a clear path to market for the oddly-named Zero vehicle.
Zeva Aero's disc-shaped, single-seat eVTOL would transition from vertical to horizontal flight by tilting the entire disc-shaped fuselage.