Lilium and Whisper: Quiet Flyers

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Two radical-looking electric aircraft, both quiet flyers, contrast in flight modes – eVTOL (electric Vertical Take Off and Landing), and eCTOL (electric Conventional Take Off and Landing).  Germany’s Lilium and America’s Whisper Jet show their unique ways. Lilium Founded in 2015, Lilium, like most of its competitors, is less than a decade old, but already boasts 950 employees in four offices.  The workers come from six continents and comprise 58 nationalities, a winner in any Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion ranking.  They make an impressive product. Lilium is an expensive machine, costing around $7 million plus.  Its marketing approach seems to be toward the VIP set and its first locations are in cash-rich areas such as the French Riviera and along Florida’s eastern shoreline.  Despite the glossy façade, there’s a solid array of engineering inside. Batteries One of the first questions your editor had on early versions of Lilium’s aircraft was where they hid the batteries.  Recent news from the company …

Whisper Jet Unveiled

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Mark Moore had a long career at NASA, followed by his leadership of Uber Elevate, the car-sharing service’s attempt to emulate their terrestrial cab competition in a more skyward realm.  Moore left all that behind to form his own company, Whisper Aero, which recently unveiled its Whisper Jet electric ducted fan propulsor. “Whisper” is more than just a trade name here.  Moore and his team have created an electric ducted fan propulsion system that seems to be far quieter than anything else flying.  Whisper Aero plans to supply these systems to airframe manufacturers, but not to produce any aircraft itself. What’s All the Noise About? Moore works from the standpoint that reducing noise is paramount in gaining community acceptance of AAM (Advanced Air Mobility)* machines.  If Mark is correct in his assessments, which seem borne out by recent tests, his ultra-quiet propulsors should be a big part of future urban and regional flight. One dictum of propeller design is that …

Kittyhawk to Close Doors, Open Another

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While Eviation’s Alice is drawing adulation for its initial test flight, Kittyhawk, a one-time front-runner and pioneer is quietly closing down.  A vision of Larry Page, Sebastian Thrun, and Ilan Kroo, Kittyhawk brought us several approaches to personal green flight, with a heavy emphasis on intuitive control and automated flight.  One of its many approaches lives on, though, through sister company Wisk. Blooper Reel Kittyhawk’s earlier efforts look somewhat like an aeronautical blooper reel, one of those montages of early flying machines that evoke laughs when shown as preludes to more serious stuff in movie theaters.  Kittyhawk, though, avoided crashes and humiliation. The firm explains its history: “Kittyhawk was founded in 2010 by autonomous car pioneer Sebastian Thrun with the backing of Google co-founder Larry Page to explore the frontier of then-new eVTOL aviation.” From Zee to Kittyhawk Originally founded as Zee Aviation, Kittyhawk was secretive, with only glimpses of its potential aerial vehicles surfacing as “spy shots.” The ZP-1 …

Airflow Moves toward Full Scale eCSTOL, AI

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Airflow, a recent entry into the electric conventional short takeoff and landing (eCSTOL) market, is pushing forward into fielding a full-scale demonstrator.  They are also testing the limits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in nailing their landings. Airflow’s mission is spelled out in big ideas and bold fonts. “Freight without the wait.  The first electric Short Take Off and Landing (eSTOL) aircraft for middle-mile logistics.  1 pilot, 500 lbs of cargo, 0 lbs of CO2.” Airflow’s concept illustrations show a twin-boom pusher with 10 distributed electric motors along the wing’s leading edge.  Trying out their ideas for extremely short takeoffs and landings will fall to a modified Cessna 210.  In the meantime, the team is advancing its concept at this time with a model Cessna 150 and showing some success at nailing their landings.  Airflow calls its pilot assistance program, “Virtual Tailhook,” and it seems to serve that purpose in making landings possible in a tight space. Videos show the progress …

Joby “Unicorn” Gains Private, Military Backing

Dean Sigler Announcements, Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Joby Aviation is one of few “unicorns” in the electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) market, a billion-dollar enterprise.  With funding coming from Toyota, several venture capital investors, Uber and the U. S. Army, Joby seems poised to demonstrate Urban Air Mobility (UAM) in a serious way. In 2011 JoeBen Bevirt, founder of Joby Energy, Joby Aviation, and creator of those knobby-looking tripods you see everywhere, invited Patrick McLaughlin to visit his design studio.  Your editor got to tag along.  On Woodpecker Ridge, north of Santa Cruz, JoeBen’s barn-like studio housed about a dozen engineers and designers all working on electricity-generating kites.  He wore a T-shirt reading, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”  That edginess has helped him, in the last decade to be a major player, with now over 500 employees in the aviation sector.  JoeBen and Patrick discussed motor design and integration with a controller Patrick had built from off-the-shelf …

Airflow: Coming to a Rooftop Near You?

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“1 pilot, 500 pounds of cargo,” reads Airflow’s headline for its electric STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) aircraft.  Reaching  for the “middle-mile” cargo delivery market, Airflow’s new design promises to be four times faster than trucks, operate at one-third the cost of helicopters or eVTOL (electric Vertical Take Off and Landing) vehicles, and require only 150 feet for takeoffs and landings. eVTOL Reconsidered Airflow’s management and engineering team come from previous experience in the eVTOL world, most recently with Airbus’ Vahana program.  Headed by Marc Ausman, The team has “over 60 years of aerospace experience,” with companies including Eclipse Aviation, Northrop Grumman, Uber Elevate, Airware, and Scaled Composites. The team determined their design can carry a pilot and a 500-pound payload using less power than comparable eVTOLs because multirotors carry the full weight of the aircraft at all times, or for some designs, until they are able to transition to full forward flight.  This helped form the decision to …

UAM Realization May be Closer than We Think

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We are on the verge of big happenings in the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) world.  Large amounts of money are flowing into the coffers of those companies which dared to pioneer in the area.  Large firms are partnering with these aerial startups.  And the Federal Aeronautics Administration is paying attention while actively pursuing certification for the new machines headed our way. Jay Merkle, FAA Certification and Airspace Integration At the Transportation Review Board’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, Jay Merkle, head of the FAA’s UAS integration office, told attendees that six (Urban Air Mobility) UAM  vehicles are “well along,” according to a report in Aviation Today.   He held that the growing market is ““more than just hype … this is more than just promotional videos.”  Merkle apparently feels current regulations such as FAR Part 23 are adequate to help these new electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) machines be certified.  Merkle feels the machines in progress can provide service …

CES 2020: eVTOLs Vie for Attention

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Two electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) craft captured spectators’ attention at the 2020 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada.   Mick Akers of the Review-Journal reported on Bell’s Nexus 4EX, an updated prototype or the concept machine they showed last year, and the New Hyundai SA-1, unveiled as part of its partnership with Uber. The Bell Nexus 4EX Akers reports, “After lighting up CES 2019 with its Nexus vertical takeoff and landing aircraft model, Bell returned this year with an updated prototype: the Nexus 4EX.” Unlike last year’s hybrid version, the 4EX will be fully electric.  Akers noted that, “the 4EX features four fan ducts, a reduction from the six shown with last year’s model.” Bell promotes the benefit more marketers in the UAM segment are attacking – time.  “Your commute, transformed.  Turn a 45-minute drive into a 10-minute flight. The safe, convenient Air Taxi is designed to let you make the most of your commute. Its …

Joby and Uber Elevate Form Partnership

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In a new partnership agreement, Uber Elevate recently added Joby Aviation to its stable of aircraft companies which are to supply craft for its Urban Air Mobility program.  Joby builds electric motors, 12 of which line the wing of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell, with two larger motors for forward thrust when the small units are shut down. This inventory of electric motors on the NASA project gives Joby a certain entrée to interest from the Urban Air Mobility movement, and it’s received that interest from Uber.  Well financed in its own right, Joby has committed to meeting Uber’s desire to have operating sky taxis in the air by 2023, as reported by Andrew J. Hawkins in The Verge. We have written about Joby several times in the past, including this 2014 report that includes an early rendition of the Maxwell project. Much has happened for Joby since then.  Hawkins picked up the story in 2018. “Joby is the brainchild of inventor …

Lilium Elevates Five-Passenger Uber-Ready Vehicle

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Uber Elevate, headed toward its third annual meeting in Washington, D. C., has established guidelines for what it wants to see flying in its service.  Lilium, a German electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing maker, has flown a vehicle that seems to meet those guidelines. The web site, A New Domain.net, notes, “The authors of the Uber paper point out that the high-profile German concept, the Lilium, is a ‘push to extremely high levels of distribution while coupling the vertical lift in closely with the wing high-lift system.’ The concern here, however, is that such jet-lift approaches “will require substantially higher power for takeoff and landing, with greater challenges operating quietly within cities,” according to the Uber paper.” “From the looks of it, Lilium still looks awfully cool. Due in 2018, Lilium is an egg-shaped plane and oft noted as a key development by European Space Agency (ESA) reps. Capable of a top speed of 250mph and a range of 300 miles, it …