On The Radar
EmbraerX continues to be extremely secretive about its plans to bring an eVTOL aircraft to market. Back in April 2017, the advanced technology division of the Brazilian aerospace group was named as one of the early partners for Uber’s planned air taxi network, but since then it has said little about its plans.
Then in July 2020, the company announced that its engineering team had started to evaluate the design’s flight-control parameters and control laws using a flight simulator. It said this would help to lay the groundwork for type certification but still remained tight-lipped as to when that might be and when key steps, such as a first real flight, might be achieved.
What went unnoticed at that time was that on July 27 an attorney named Duane Byers had filed a U.S. trademark application for a product called Eve by EmbraerX. For the record, it was described as an "electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle that can transport people.”
While Embraer has yet to make any formal public statement, it would seem almost certain that this is indeed the mystery eVTOL. Previously, the company had adopted a working title of DreamMaker for the program, but it starting to disavow this name at some point in 2019 when it launched a public poll to select a new moniker. We can’t say for sure that the name Eve was chosen as a result of this poll, or, indeed, whether it will end up being the name under which the four-seat, all-electric aircraft eventually enters service. I am tempted to place a small wager that any subsequent Embraer eVTOL models might carry the name Adam.
Embraer’s engineering team in Brazil has flown scale models of the new design and conducted some wind-tunnel testing. The simulator trials also evaluated the fly-by-wire system the eVTOL will use, which the company says will represent fifth-generation technology building on equipment already deployed on its business aircraft and commercial airliners.
The artists’ impressions so far released of what we believe to be Eve show an aircraft with eight propellers attached to what appear to be four beams connected to a pair of narrow, parallel wings protruding from the top of the fuselage, presumably to support vertical lift. At the rear of the aircraft are a pair of ducted fans for cruise flight.
According to Andre Stein, EmbraerX’s head of strategy and urban air mobility, the company continues to work with Uber, which has set a target of starting commercial air taxi operations in 2023. He would not say whether Embraer is targeting that date for its own eVTOL aircraft, adding that its agreement with Uber is not exclusive and that it remains open to possible partnerships with other operators and infrastructure providers. He stressed that the company is focused on contributing to the development of the wider ecosystem of infrastructure and technology that it says will be needed to support eVTOL operations, especially in urban air mobility applications.
Meanwhile, there has been no progress report on the partnership that EmbraerX announced with Elroy Air back in January 2020 to develop a cargo-carrying eVTOL called the Chapparal. Announcing the alliance at the Consumer Electronics Show, Elroy Air said the autonomously operated aircraft, which will have a hybrid-electric propulsion system, will be able to carry payloads of up to 300 pounds over distances of up to 300 miles. It is targeted for service entry in 2022.
On June 16, 2020, Antonio Campello stepped down as president and CEO of EmbraerX in the immediate wake of the breakdown of the long-planned merger between Boeing and Embraer. The move was part of a cost-cutting exercise implemented by Embraer group CEO Gomes Neto, although the future of EmbraerX is thought to be secure, given that Neto has been a vocal advocate of new technologies like eVTOL aircraft.