Horizon Aircraft says it has successfully conducted the first hover flight tests with a half-scale Cavorite X5 eVTOL prototype.
The Canadian start-up is developing a fixed-wing eVTOL aircraft with a highly efficient, hybrid-electric power system. The aircraft will seat four passengers plus one pilot and is intended for air taxi rides, cargo transport, disaster relief, and emergency medical services. It features a patented fan-in-wing vertical lift system with 16 ducted fans built into the wing and canard.
The Cavorite X5 prototype “exceeded expectations during initial hover testing,” said Horizon CEO Brandon Robinson. “It is extremely stable, is capable of full hover at only 65 percent power, and has hovered with 20 percent of its fans purposely disabled in order to test system redundancy.
"This is a large-scale aircraft, with a 22-foot wingspan, over 15 feet in length, and capable of speeds over 175 mph," Robinson added. "It continues to yield valuable data that is constantly improving our full-scale design.”
According to Horizon, the aircraft’s unique design allows it to fly in a low-drag configuration, just like a traditional airplane, 98 percent of the time during each mission. The company claims that this configuration makes the aircraft safer, more efficient, and easier to certify than other eVTOL designs, such as those that involve tilting rotors. The hybrid-electric power system allows the aircraft to recharge its own batteries during flight.
Robinson told FutureFlight that the company began initial hover testing in July 2022. “That consisted of full hover power stability testing wherein roll, pitch, and yaw stability were dialed in,” Robinson said. “We then moved to vertical power tuning and outdoor hover testing under gradually increasing wind conditions. In total, we have conducted a total of 84 unique hover flight test profiles.”
During those hover tests, in which the aircraft was tethered to the ground, it reached an altitude of about 15 feet, Robinson said. “There was no further data to be gained by going any higher, but the aircraft has sufficient excess hover power to climb vertically to almost any height.”
Horizon is now getting ready to begin transition flight testing with the Cavorite X5. Achieving a transition flight, during which an aircraft transitions from hover to forward flight, is a key milestone in the development of any eVTOL aircraft.
“We are doing our preliminary real-world investigation in the ACE Wind Tunnel, a world-class facility here in Toronto that will help us to investigate transition in a controlled fashion,” Robinson said. “After this phase, we will be moving on to outdoor transition testing later in the spring or summer.”
Pending type certification, Horizon says, it expects to begin making deliveries of a full-scale aircraft in 2026. “We are meeting shortly with experts who will help us to establish our certification basis, so more clarity will emerge once those meetings have occurred. We have met with both Transport Canada and the FAA concerning certification of our aircraft," Robinson said. He added that Horizon plans to have its first full-scale Cavorite X5 aircraft completed in 24 to 30 months.
This article was updated on January 5 with additional details about the hover flight testing campaign.