Five members from the former Airbus Vahana team have launched a new company called Airflow, to develop the first eSTOL aircraft designed for middle-mile aerial logistics.
They are CEO Marc Ausman, who was the chief strategist on the Vahana programme, and Peter Kalogiannis, Vahana’s aircraft integration and test lead. Completing the line-up is flight software engineer Don Fung, senior sub-scale vehicle engineer Geoffrey DuBridge and flight controls consultant Robbie Bunge.
With more than 60 years of combined aerospace industry experience at companies including Airware, Eclipse Aviation, Northrop
Grumman, Scaled Composites and Uber Elevate, they expect its aircraft to go into production in 2025.
In a blog post about the company’s launch, Ausman said: “We were keenly aware of the challenges and compromises inherent in current eVTOL designs and asked ourselves if there were alternate ways to address the urban air mobility market.
“It turns out there is an alternative that is simpler, with lower development cost and risk and is less than half the operating cost of an eVTOL. We propose that electric Short Takeoff and Landing (eSTOL) aircraft are also suitable for urban air mobility missions.
“We started Airflow.aero to develop and commercialise eSTOL technology and offer transportation services that simply don’t exist with today’s commercial aircraft.”
In a press release announcing the launch, Airflow says the need for rapid middle-mile logistics capabilities between 50 – 200 miles is growing significantly due to e-commerce growth.
To address that need, the company has said its aerial logistics service can move cargo and time-sensitive medical supplies directly between warehouses without using traditional airports.
Airflow’s eSTOL aircraft will require less than 150 feet to take off and land using a 300-foot runway, about the length of three helipads next to each other. It will also include an electric propulsion system, single-pilot operations, and the ability to carry 500lbs of cargo.
The design is relatively simple fixed-wing aircraft, which dramatically reduces development and certification risk when compared with more complex ones.
From a certification standpoint, eSTOL aircraft are conventional aircraft with new technology that is focused on enabling short-field capabilities, and can be certified under standard Part 23 regulations.
Ausman added: “The demand for same-day e-commerce continues to rise, and we’re building a new low-cost aerial capability to enable that growth. Our approach from the beginning is to focus on a simple aircraft design with well-defined new technology.
“In doing so, the team believes development and certification costs will be approximately $200 million versus more than $700 million for an eVTOL aircraft, making for more efficient use of capital.”
To learn more about Airflow and their planned eSTOL-enabled logistics network, visit www.airflow.aero.