Alaka’i Technologies, which is currently building its hydrogen-powered eVTOL aircraft – known as Skai – has joined NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign as a vehicle partner.
The company will join other industry partners, including Wisk, to help NASA begin to address vehicle readiness as part of the campaign, which will begin in 2022.
While Wisk’s partnership with NASA is designed to emphasise its experience in eVTOL vehicle development and flight test, with a focus on a safety-first mindset toward advancing autonomous flight, Alaka’i will bring new technologies highlighted by an eVTOL aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Davis Hackenberg, NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility mission integration manager, said: “Our vehicle partnerships are critical to NASA and the industry success in AAM. They are the cornerstone of our data collection that will support standardisation, certification and eventually the operational approval for safe and scalable UAM operations.”
Alaka’i’s Skai aircraft design will seat up to five passengers and travel at speeds of up to 115mph, although it will likely be reduced to 85mph for local trips. It has a payload of up to 1,000lbs and can be refuelled in less than 10 minutes. Alaka’i also believes the everyday ‘sweet spot’ for travel will be range between 15 and 150 miles.
The hydrogen cells will generate the electricity used to power the aircraft, powering on board systems and six quiet electric outrunner motors, which will provide the lift.
The National Campaign is partnering with industry partners to test inventive urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles, or electric-powered vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), to see how these industry-developed designs can safely interact with other air traffic in the future.
These partners will focus on demonstrating integrated operations through flight activities with vehicles and third-party airspace service providers at various locations in the national airspace system around the country.
The NC Integrated Dry Run Test in December will be the first step of the campaign, which will use a helicopter as a surrogate UAM to develop a data baseline for future flight testing.
Following this testing, the developmental test in 2021 will use Joby Aviation’s air taxi design and include activities such as designing flight scenarios for the participants to fly, exercising range deployment and data collecting protocols.
Both types of vehicle designs and propulsion systems will enable the National Campaign to continue its mission of engaging with diverse vehicle developers and manufacturers in emerging aviation markets for passenger and cargo transportation in urban, suburban, rural, and regional environments.