It’s been another year of steady progress for the team at Horizon Aircraft. While news showcasing the momentum being made in the eVTOL aircraft and Urban Air Mobility markets has been constant, the Canadian start-up has been hard at work in the background.

It has successfully completed Phase 1 of AFWERX HSVTOL and is now ramping up its efforts for Phase 2, while also completing the assembly of a 50% prototype model of its Cavorite X5 aircraft and embarking on a Series A Financing Round.

eVTOL Insights spoke to Horizon Aircraft CEO, Brandon Robinson, who provided an update on all of these achievements and what they mean for the company’s roadmap.

It’s great to hear Horizon Aircraft has successfully completed AFWERX HSVTOL Phase 1. How was the overall experience for you and can you tell us more about the key successes and learnings you picked up along the way?

Brandon Robinson: “The AFWERX HSVTOL experience was excellent. Simply put, this was an example of a public program efficiently accomplishing its goals to strengthen US military capability while supporting domestic innovation.

“Throughout the process, we were connected with industry leading minds from AFRL, NASA, JPL and other leading institutions that helped us refine our design. Overall, we were able to accelerate the development of our 50 per cent-scale prototype, received excellent feedback on many critical design elements, and are well ahead of where we would be without such support. We are really looking forward to the start of the HSVTOL Phase 2!”

Plans are now in place for a Phase 2 effort. Can you tell us what this will entail and how it will follow on from Phase 1?

“HSVTOL Phase 2 will involve a further competitive process. There has not been much information promulgated as of yet, but as we understand it there will be a full RFP process with submissions from the Phase 1 companies.

“Phase 2 will look for teams to demonstrate over a nine-month period that they can further reduce risk that a full scale prototype will work as advertised. After Phase 2, Phase 3 of the HSVTOL challenge will oversee the construction of a full-scale prototype over a 30-month period. Our Phase 2 effort will focus on proving our key technology that was fully tested at the 50%-scale will work properly as we scale up.  

It’s also great to see developments of Horizon’s 50%-scale prototype and hear that it is now fully assembled. Can you tell us more about the testing roadmap and what the next few months will involve? 

“We will begin basic hover testing in the next couple of weeks. We’re going to take our time with that, beginning in ideal conditions and then pushing the envelope with adverse wind conditions (gusts, off-axis, etc.). Once we’re happy with hover we will move on to normal aircraft flight testing, so takeoffs and landings from a prepared runway. One advantage of our Cavorite concept is that it can do exactly that – fly around in a configuration just like a normal (canard) aircraft.

“Finally, we will move on to transition testing from vertical to forward flight. During this phase we will begin by exploring various forward speeds with the wings open. Once we reach our targeted forward transition speed, we will systematically investigate wing panel closing.

Then the reverse will happen when we explore transition from normal aircraft mode to vertical mode.“Finally, we will move on to transition testing from vertical to forward flight. During this phase we will begin by exploring various forward speeds with the wings open. Once we reach our targeted forward transition speed, we will systematically investigate wing panel closing. Then the reverse will happen when we explore transition from normal aircraft mode to vertical mode.

“So, in summary, hover testing first, followed by normal aircraft operations. Transition testing will then weld those two previous flight test regimes together!”

The momentum continues with Horizon and the beginning of an exciting Series A Funding Round. Can you tell us more about this and how this will help your efforts going forward?

“As you may know, we recently separated from Astro Aerospace and are a newly-minted private corporation. As such, investors who wanted to support Horizon Aircraft and our innovative Cavorite concept can do so without diluting their capital in the larger Astro public corporation. Astro continues to be a strategic partner and will retain a small ownership fraction of the re-privatised Horizon Aircraft.

“In order to continue our forward progress we are now putting together a Series A round with a number of interested parties. Some of these potential investors have been watching us for a while and with the USAF AFWERX validation followed by completion of our 50%-scale aircraft, they are excited to become part of this success story with a team that is making exceptional progress on a practical design.”

Is there anything else that you’d like to say that you haven’t already mentioned, and you feel it would be worth adding to the article?

“One interesting thing that has been identified through AFWERX and some private logistics companies is an interest in our 50%-scale aircraft. Essentially it is a large drone that we calculate could comfortably carry 100 lbs of useful load.

“We have identified a suitable hybrid power system for it as well, which would back some very significant range and speed numbers, able to travel 250 km/hr+ and travel over 1,000 km. And it has its own built-in launch and recovery system! Many larger drones like this must operate from runways while ours is much more flexible.

“We had previously viewed our 50%-scale aircraft only as a stepping stone test platform to inform a full-scale design. But this could represent an early and unexpected revenue stream for the company.”

“In any case, we are excited to continue on our current developmental trajectory, putting engineering first and developing a practical VTOL that is built for the real world.”