Having completed a funding round at the end of April, XTI Aircraft says it is on track to complete type certification of its TriFan 600 eVTOL model by the end of 2024. The Denver-based company says it now holds 202 reservations for the hybrid-electric design and that these include 40 purchase orders, representing prospective revenues of $1.3 billion based on its $6.5 million price tag.
According to CEO Robert LaBelle, the growing XTI team is now around 18 months away from being ready to start flying a full-scale prototype, which it expects to begin building in early 2022. In April it announced the appointment of former U.S. Marine Corps test pilot James Kromberg as chief pilot.
The investment campaign, run through the StartEngine platform, raised a little over $900,000, which is just under the $1.07 million limit for that source of funding. Backers now include 791 investors holding shares valued at $1.50 each.
LaBelle said that fundraising efforts will continue. “So far, we have mainly focused on nailing down the requirements for the aircraft and having a resource-loaded [development] schedule,” he told FutureFlight. “We’ve already seen a lot of [eVTOL aircraft] programs burn through a lot of money and not get their goals as they don’t have those first two things in place.”
The TriFan 600 has three ducted fans, with two on the wing that tilt during the transition between hover and cruise flight, and a third position within the rear fuselage for vertical propulsion. Power will be generated by GE Aviation’s new Catalyst engine, feeding electric motors and batteries. XTI plans to install photovoltaic panels on the top of the fuselage to provide power while the aircraft is on the ground.
The projected range for the TriFan is 750 miles in VTOL mode, with the figure rising to around 1,380 miles when it takes off and lands conventionally on runways. It will have a cruise speed of around 345 mph and can operate at up to 29,000 feet. The 5,800-pound aircraft will have a full-airframe parachute, allowing it to land safely in the event of a serious emergency.
According to LaBelle, the TriFan burns around 10 to 12 percent of available power for each takeoff and landing. However, since the Catalyst engine will recharge the batteries during the flight, there will be no need for recharging on the ground.
XTI initially envisaged the aircraft being used mainly for corporate and individual transportation, but after reducing the list price with a switch to hybrid-electric propulsion, it has seen the prospective customer base widen. LaBelle indicated that the majority of those holding reservations are commercial operators, and there has been some interest from the emergency medical support sector, too.
Recently, the company has been in talks with possible partners in Estonia, where it may do some assembly work and also tap local expertise in training and maintenance. It is also exploring plans to develop “a mobility hub” around the eastern European country’s capital, Tallinn, to provide flights in a region that LaBelle says is underserved by convenient airline connections.
The TriFan’s standard configuration will be for a pilot plus five passengers, but XTI also has plans for a version that would have eight passenger seats. In the longer term, it may proceed with a 12-seat version.
The company also has set its sights on a smaller TriFan 200 model that would be used for cargo operations. It has turned to VerdeGo Aero to develop a diesel-based hybrid propulsion system for an aircraft that would be operated autonomously.