Airbus Helicopters has started building a dedicated test center for its CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft within its existing site at Donauwörth in southern Germany. The European aerospace group expects to complete the 1,000 sq m (10,764 sq ft) facility in the first quarter of 2023, at which point it will be used for testing systems for the planned four-passenger vehicle for which it aims to complete EASA type certification in 2025.
To prepare for the first flight of a full-scale prototype in 2023, Airbus engineers will use the new hangar to integrate high-voltage propulsion systems and lithium batteries. Preflight testing will involve the electric motors that drive the CityAirbus’s eight rotors, as well as other systems such as the flight controls and avionics.
“With the groundbreaking ceremony for the Urban Air Mobility Test Center at the Donauwörth site, Airbus Helicopters is laying an important foundation for the further progress of electrically powered aircraft,” commented Anna Christmann, the German government’s aerospace policy coordinator, who participated in the event. “As the federal government, we welcome the efforts made by the industry to develop new propulsion systems and aircraft that will enable climate-neutral aviation.”
Airbus unveiled its plans for CityAirbus NextGen in September 2021. The fixed-wing design features a V-shaped tail and is expected to have a range of 50 miles (80 kilometers) and a maximum speed of 75 mph (120 km/h).
The company has already appointed multiple suppliers and partners for the program. These include Spirit AeroSystems, which will make the wings, with both Thales and Diehl contributing flight control equipment. German automotive groups KLK Motorsport and Modell- und Formenbau Blasius Berg are working on the design, development, and manufacturing of what they say will be an ultra-lightweight rear fuselage.
Rival aircraft manufacturer Boeing is backing California-based start-up Wisk in its efforts to bring a fully autonomous eVTOL vehicle to market. It has been extensively flight testing a two-seat technology demonstrator called Cora but has indicated that it has a larger sixth-generation model in the works.