Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) is a type of aircraft that uses electric power to take off, land and hover vertically. Currently there are over 250 entities developing eVTOL aircrafts. With this, industry experts predict they could be taking the sky as soon as 2024.
How does eVTOL vehicles work?
eVTOL vehicles will revolutionise inter and intra city mobility, by providing quick, direct, and clean mobility. With the latest developments in both electric motor and battery technology, electric aircrafts are becoming more feasible.
There are three different ways that eVTOLs can operate:
- The tilt-thrust method involves propellers that change position to get the aircraft upward to a forward-facing position. This generates propulsion, while more traditional wings provide lift.
- The lift and cruise version involves several propellers which provides a lift like a helicopter, while a second fixed motor provides forward propulsion.
- The multirotor system involves multiple fixed rotors which provide both an upward lift and forward thrust by tilting the vehicle forward.
The most popular option eVTOL manufacturers are opting for is the tilt-thrust method, especially for moving passengers and cargo over long distances.
eVTOL aims to simplify flying, offering direct point-to-point transportation while minimising the need for a runway. eVTOL has the potential to eliminate the 25% of aeroplane emissions that occur when landing and take-off, therefore making it more environmentally friendly.
In recent years, significant progress has been made toward eVTOL due to a number of trends:
- The growth of on-demand services.
- Increased availability of funding for a greater focus on sustainability.
- Pressure on the transportation industry to go green.
Advantages of eVTOL
- Lower operational costs due to no fuel costs.
- Longer term as they are more controllable, thus a more feasible option for autonomy.
- Reduced noise pollution.
- Fewer maintenance requirements as a result of multiple rotors with more redundancy.
Challenges faced by eVTOL
The shift towards electric aircrafts is much more complex than the shift to electric cars. This shift comes with its challenges, mainly:
- The limits of available electric power, eVTOL requires significant levels of power during take-off and landing. Manufacturers are having to consider a cost-effective way to store, charge and have enough batteries available for the multiple flights each aircraft would conduct each day.
- The general public may have some reservations about the risks involved with eVTOLs.
However, whilst these challenges remain, companies globally are still heavily investing in research and technology to help convert aviation to electric.
A step closer to getting eVTOL off the ground
This week, US air regulators published rules to officially add eVTOL vehicles to the list of regulated aircraft. This is a huge step closer to getting eVTOL in the air, as this update is necessary before offering flights to customers.
The agency is also expected to publish proposed rules for operating the aircrafts in summer 2023. This will include the criteria companies will need to meet to licence pilots and launch their operations.
It’s clear that the demand for electric aircraft is here, the technology is being developed, and the future will include fossil-fuel-free flight.
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