The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

FutureFlight Weekly News Roundup

Japan's SkyTaxi Orders 50 Plana eVTOL Aircraft

South Korean advanced air mobility (AAM) start-up Plana has agreed to deliver 50 of its hybrid-electric, four-passenger CP-01 eVTOL aircraft to SkyTaxi, a spinoff of the Japanese taxi operator Daiho Taxi Group. Plana says it will deliver the first 10 aircraft to SkyTaxi in 2030, with another 40 expected to be delivered over the following 10 years. 

According to Plana, SkyTaxi is already training pilots and conducting operational tests in preparation for the launch of air taxi routes connecting Osaka's city centers with Kansai and Kobe airports, as well as sightseeing destinations around Japan. Under the new agreement, Plana and SkyTaxi will collaborate on the development of Plana's aircraft, its interior design, and a concept of operations for air taxi services in Japan. 

Lilium Jet Heads to Europe's Largest Wind Tunnel Facility

Lilium has begun testing a model of its six-passenger Lilium Jet eVTOL air taxi at Europe's largest wind tunnel facility: the German-Dutch Wind Tunnels at Marknesse, in the Netherlands. The scale model, which is about 40 percent of the size of Lilium's planned full-scale aircraft, is complete with working engines and flap actuators. 

Lilium tests a model of its Lilium Jet eVTOL aircraft in a wind tunnel.
Lilium is testing a model of its Lilium Jet eVTOL aircraft in a wind tunnel. (Image: Lilium)

Data from the wind tunnel tests will help to validate the aircraft's aerodynamic design and performance specifications. According to Lilium, the wind tunnel testing campaign that began on May 4 will cover the aircraft's complete flight envelope, from hover to wing-borne cruise flight. 

Lilium also recently announced a $250 million fundraising campaign to help support the development of its full-scale aircraft, which it plans to have certified and in service by the end of 2025. 

Volatus Infrastructure Partners with Insurance Provider

Volatus Infrastructure, a Wisconsin-based developer of low-cost vertiports for eVTOL aircraft, has formed a strategic partnership with insurance provider Marsh McLennan. According to Volatus Infrastructure, Marsh McLennan will be the preferred provider of insurance solutions for customers who utilize the company's vertiports. Based in New York City, Marsh McLennan is a global professional services firm that offers insurance brokerage, risk management, and management consulting services for a variety of companies, and it has extensive experience working with the aviation and space industries. 

“With Marsh McLennan’s dedicated aviation division, they have the best knowledge and experience that they are able to apply to the AAM industry,” said Grant Fisk, Volatus Infrastructure's co-founder. “It’s important that we are setting up our customers with all the tools they will need to have successful eVTOL operations.”

Echodyne and Inmarsat Support Supernal’s eVTOL Aircraft Development

Supernal has two new partnerships for its plans to develop the four-passenger SA-1 eVTOL aircraft, with Echodyne developing new radar technology and Inmarsat applying its satellite communications expertise to support uncrewed aircraft traffic management. Echodyne is also making an undisclosed minority investment in Supernal, which is part of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group.

According to Supernal, it is seeking Echodyne’s help to use radars to enhance the situational awareness of eVTOL pilots operating in dense airspace and in and out of vertiports. The company’s proprietary metamaterials electronically scanned array radar combines Tx/Rx cell density with software to improve the performance of sensors in ways that can provide all-weather airspace monitoring and potentially support automated applications.

Supernal's SA-1 eVTOL aircraft.
Supernal's SA-1 eVTOL aircraft will carry four passengers. (Image: Supernal)

During testing of the SA-1 eVTOL, Inmarsat will connect the vehicle to its Velaris satcom service to assess capabilities such as aircraft state and telemetry monitoring. The Velaris system is expected to provide the required levels of connectivity for new advanced air mobility vehicles and is based on Inmarsat’s experience in supporting air traffic management communications.

Meanwhile, Inmarsat is also providing the Velaris satcom system to Volatus Aerospace to support its commercial drone operations. Its latest customer aims to use the technology to support longer-range, beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights.

Leasing Group Agrees To Buy Up to 40 Heart ES-30 Electric Aircraft

Leasing group Rockton this week firmed up an earlier letter of intent to buy up to 40 of Heart Aerospace’s planned ES-30 hybrid-electric regional airliner. The agreement announced on May 10 covers 20 purchase agreements with rights to buy another 20 aircraft.

The ES-30 will carry 30 passengers, with an all-electric range of 200 kilometers (125 miles) that could be increased to 400 kilometers by using the hybrid propulsion systems turbogenerator that will run on sustainable aviation fuel. Heart aims to get the aircraft certified to start commercial flights in 2028 and says that the range could be further extended up to 800 kilometers with a limited payload to carry as many as 25 passengers with typical airline reserves.

Heart Aerospace's ES-30 hybrid-electric airliner.
Heart Aerospace's ES-30 hybrid-electric airliner will carry 30 passengers and is expected to enter service in 2028. (Image: Heart Aerospace)

Rockton, which like Heart is based in Sweden, says it is only now investing in technology that reduces aviation’s carbon footprint. Heart says it holds firm orders for the ES-30, as well as options and purchase rights for 120 more and letters of intent covering another 91 units.

Israel Aerospace Industries Backs Defense Applications for Transcend Air’s VTOL Aircraft

Transcend Air Corporation is partnering with the U.S. subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to develop military versions of its Vy family of high-speed VTOP aircraft. Under a memorandum of understanding signed this week, IAI North America will support the Boston-based company’s efforts to expand military uses for the aircraft, which it also expects to sell to commercial operators for regional air services between city centers.

Transcend Air's Vy family of hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft.
Transcend Air's Vy family of hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft could be deployed for military and civil applications. (Image: Transcend Air)

IAI has a broad product portfolio for multiple defense and homeland security uses. The company has expertise in converting aircraft, as well as manufacturing experience with Gulfstream’s G280 super-midsize business jet and making wings for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter.

The U.S. Department of Defense has already awarded Transcend multiple research and development contracts to support design work on the Vy aircraft, with a view to seeing it possibly deployed for special operations and Air Force missions. The company said that Seabury Capital Management is acting as an advisor in setting up the partnership with IAI but has not disclosed any financial terms associated with it.

Knighthood Global Invests in Odys Hybrid-Electric VTOL Aircraft

Abu Dhabi-based consultancy group Knighthood Global is investing an undisclosed sum in Odys Aviation, which is developing a nine-passenger hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft for regional and business aviation services. Under the agreement announced this week, Knighthood chairman James Hogan, who is the former president and CEO of Etihad Airways, and partner Camiel Eurlings will serve on the advisory board of the California-based start-up.

Odys says that its aircraft will have a range of up to 750 miles using the turbogenerator as part of its propulsion system, or almost 200 miles in all-electric mode. In April 2022, the company reported that it had raised $18 million to support development work on the blown-wing design.

Odys Aviation is developing a nine-passenger hybrid-electric aircraft.
Odys Aviation is developing a nine-passenger hybrid-electric aircraft. (Image: Odys Aviation)