The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

FutureFlight Weekly News Roundup

Beta Technologies Hosts Visit by U.S. Senator and White House Adviser

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) escorted White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu on a tour of the Plattsburgh site in upstate New York, where Beta Technologies is developing both its Alia 250 eVTOL and a conventional takeoff and landing aircraft. Landrieu is a special adviser to President Joe Biden, and Sen. Gillibrand is seeking federal support for infrastructure investment, including transportation, in the North Country region of the state. Also participating in the visit on July 21 were New York Assemblyman Billy Jones; Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce; and Molly Ryan, executive director of the Clinton County Industrial Development Agency.

Hailing Beta Technologies as “a national leader in aerospace engineering,” Sen. Gillibrand commented: “I hope to continue to work closely with the White House, with Beta Technologies, and with North Country local leaders to bring federal investment to the region and help it to become a center of clean energy innovation and manufacturing.”

Earlier this month, a 70-member delegation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FAA, NASA, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration visited California-based eVTOL aircraft developer Archer Aviation. The company’s Santa Clara headquarters hosted a meeting of the Federal Advanced Air Mobility Interagency Working Group.

Archer Appoints Uber Elevate Co-Founder To Lead Commercial Operations

Nikhil Goel, who co-founded the Uber Elevate air taxi rideshare platform that Joby subsequently bought, has been appointed chief commercial officer at Archer Aviation. The company said Goel will lead its efforts to bring the Midnight eVTOL aircraft into commercial service in 2025. He has been an adviser to Archer since August 2020 and holds or has held advisory roles with other advanced air mobility start-ups, including propulsion innovator Whisper Aero and eVTOL aircraft developers Elroy Air and Odys Aviation.

Archer said Goel will focus on launching air taxi services in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco, as well as on expanding its business model in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. The company’s announcement made no mention of prospects in Europe, where Archer founder and CEO Adam Goldstein recently criticized air safety regulator EASA for an approach to type certification of eVTOL aircraft that he said will make it “extremely hard” to get them approved and make advanced air mobility business models unsustainable.

Sustainability Venture Capital Group Invests in Electra’s eSTOL Aircraft

Germany-based Statkraft Ventures, which specializes in backing companies involved in energy transition and climate technology, is making an investment in Electra.aero to support its efforts to develop its nine-passenger, hybrid-electric eSTOL aircraft. Virginia-based Electra, which in June unveiled its EL-2 Goldfinch technology demonstrator, is not disclosing the amount of the latest investment or the total for its fundraising efforts to date.

Electra aims to start test flights with a full-scale prototype in 2025 as it works toward targeted type certification in 2028. The aircraft, which could alternatively carry 2,500 pounds of freight, is expected to operate on routes of around 400 nm from landing sites as short as 150 feet. The company is in the process of selecting a supplier for the turbogenerator that will form part of a distributed electric propulsion system that will drive eight electric motors and recharge batteries during flights.

Electra.aero eSTOL aircraft
Electra.aero has provisional sales commitments for its planned eSTOL aircraft from prospective operators, including helicopter group Bristow. (Image: Bristow)

XTI Aircraft To Go Public via Merger with Software Group Inpixon

XTI Aircraft aims to raise capital to develop the TriFan 600 VTOL aircraft by merging with Nasdaq-listed software group Inpixon. The companies announced a definitive merger agreement on July 25, saying they expect the transaction to close by the fourth quarter of this year. More public information as required under U.S. financial regulations is expected to be published later this week, with the merged operation expected to trade under the name XTI Aerospace. Inpixon specializes in real-time location systems used in manufacturing facilities and warehouses.

Colorado-based XTI now refers to its turbine-powered TriFan model as a “vertical lift crossover airplane.” It has a pair of tilting ducted fans on the wing and another fan integrated into the rear fuselage, with an anticipated range of 700 miles and speeds of up to 345 mph. As propulsion technology advances, XTI anticipates introducing versions of the aircraft with hybrid-electric or all-electric propulsion.

XTI's TriFan 600 aircraft.
XTI's turbine-powered TriFan 600 VTOL aircraft will feature a pair of tilting ducted fans on the wing and another ducted fan integrated into the rear fuselage. (Image: XTI Aircraft)

“We believe that the TriFan 600 airplane will revolutionize point-to-point air travel by combining the comfort, speed, and range of similar conventional business aircraft with the flexibility, convenience, and pinpoint transportation of a helicopter,” said XTI Aircraft founder and chairman David Brody. “In 2019, we successfully conducted multiple hover tests of our two-thirds-scale unmanned proof-of-concept configuration of the TriFan. After we close, we expect to be in a strong position to expand our operations, work toward building our first full-scale piloted test aircraft, and continue our efforts toward achieving FAA certification and commercial production.”

Volatus Infrastructure Names New Leadership Team

Volatus Infrastructure, a U.S. start-up developing low-cost vertiports for eVTOL aircraft, has appointed three new members to its leadership team, the company announced on July 25 at the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The company’s new CEO will be Dan Sloat, founder and president of the Advanced Air Mobility Institute. Bob Johnson, an urban air mobility consultant and former drone executive, will be the chief commercial officer. Nicolas Zart, the former director of strategic development for Vertical Flight Society, will be chief strategy officer.

Opener Offers Early BlackFly Customers Flight Evaluation Role

Opener is seeking to recruit 12 customers for its BlackFly single-seat, personal eVTOL vehicle to conduct flight evaluations and provide feedback to the manufacturer. The California-based company announced the Early Access Program (EAP) during this week’s EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, where it demonstrated the distinctive aircraft.

Opener's BlackFly personal eVTOL vehicle.
Opener's BlackFly personal eVTOL vehicle is to be approved under FAA's Part 103 rules for light sports aircraft. (Image: Opener)

Prospective BlackFly owners wanting to join the EAP group need to live in the U.S., have access to Class G airspace (over uncongested areas), be at least 18 years old, and be able to commit a specified amount of time for training and program development work. Opener intends to bring the aircraft to market under FAA’s Part 103 rules for ultralights for consumer recreational use and short-hop travel. Operators do not need to hold a pilot’s license, but Opener requires them to undergo comprehensive flight training.

Elfly Selects Battery Supplier for Noemi Electric Amphibious Aircraft

Electric Power Systems is to provide its Epic batteries for the Noemi amphibious aircraft being developed by Norwegian start-up Elfly. The partnership was announced at this week’s EAA AirVenture show, with the energy storage specialist adding to a list of aviation customers that already includes Plana, Supernal, Ampaire, Aura Aero, VoltAero, Boeing, Textron eAviation, and Diamond Aircraft.

In June, Elfly announced plans for an all-electric seaplane that will carry up to 13 passengers or freight, with a range of up to 200 kilometers (109 nm) at speeds of up to 250 knots. The company aims to start test flights with a prototype in 2025 with a view to the aircraft entering service between 2028 and 2030. It believes the Noemi could connect coastal communities in countries like Norway, where challenging geography can make road trips for relatively short distances slow and arduous.

Elfly's Noemi all-electric seaplane.
Elfly has selected batteries provided by EP Systems for its all-electric Noemi amphibious aircraft. (Image: Elfly)

Avidyne to Supply Quantum Avionics Suite for SkyDrive’s eVTOL Aircraft

SkyDrive has selected Avidyne’s Quantum avionics suite for the flight deck of its three-seat SD-05 eVTOL aircraft. The Japanese start-up is developing the all-electric vehicle for trips of less than 10 miles and already has prospective customers signed up in the U.S., Japan, and Vietnam. Florida-based Avidyne announced the agreement with SkyDrive during this week’s EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.