LEO Flight has designed an electric jetpack that uses clusters of electric jets for lift instead of rotors. Last November we reported how the company was awarded a DARPA contract for further development.
This is the foundation for the LEO Coupe all-electric jet propelled eVTOL, three-seat flying car, and LYNX’s propulsion systems.
Pete Bitar and Carlos Salaff formed LEO Flight in the spring of 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as a joint-venture between Pete’s Electric Jet Aircraft company and Carlos’s SALAFF Automotive company. Our content writer, Boris Sedacca, asks the questions.
eVTOL Insights: What were the main reasons for setting up LEO Flight?
Carlos Salaff: We saw a need for practical, safe, and high-performance aerial mobility that was not being represented by the current crop of AAM concepts. We envisioned a more personal, compact, and scalable solution for mass adoption, that reclaims the concept of the ‘flying car’ as imagined by the Jetsons and other Space Age science fiction.
eVTOL Insights: Can you tell us more about your eVTOL concept?
Carlos Salaff: The LEO Coupe is a 200-mph electric-jet-propelled flying car intended for direct door-door air travel, from your home to your destination. It combines the speed and freedom of an airplane, with the convenience, privacy, and style of a car.
It seats 3–4 passengers based on payload weight). We are designing a fast charging landing pad called VertiStop for trips exceeding the 250-mile range, or any other time a charge is needed. VertiStop can be placed on parking garages, parking lots, businesses and other existing infrastructure.
The compact LEO Coupe and VertiStop solutions stand in contrast to large, multirotor drone air taxis that require heavy infrastructure VertiPorts to operate. This makes our concept less expensive, greener, and easier to deploy for large-scale adoption.
eVTOL Insights: Do you have an estimated timeline of when you expect the aircraft to be certified?
Carlos Salaff: We are aiming to bring the LEO Coupe to market in 2025
eVTOL Insights: How will it work once it is operational? Will people be able to buy and own one themselves, or will it be used as part of an UAM service?
Carlos Salaff: Personal ownership, as well as fleet use cases are intended
eVTOL Insights: Where are the actuators used and how are they powered?
Pete Bitar: We will have actuators for the control surfaces for forward flight, and they are all electrical, fly-by-wire. Vertical flight will be direct engine control for pitch, roll and yaw.
eVTOL Insights: Are gyroscopes deployed?
Pete Bitar: Yes they are redundant in our flight controller.
eVTOL Insights: What about feedback & PID control — how are the signals interconnected?
Pete Bitar: All of this is in the flight controller, just like a drone.
eVTOL Insights: Why Clustered Electric Jet Propulsion instead of rotors?
Pete Bitar: Far more redundant, infinitely more compact, and relatively comparable efficiency. Far safer, reduces infrastructure size and customization. Allows for safety systems like ballistic parachutes without risk of damage from propellers. Higher airspeed. It gives us the ability to make an actual flying car that is automotive in size and footprint, and offers better performance and safety than props.
eVTOL Insights: Battery power density — can you talk about size, weight and power (SWaP) trade-offs? Are hybrid engines the way forward?
Pete Bitar: Hybrid is NOT the way forward. We will be using the Tesla 4680 cell architecture. These are tested to automotive crash grade. No need to reinvent. Energy density is around 280 wh/kg with those and give us our 250 mile range at 200 mph.
We are also in discussions with two lithium metal/solid state battery makers that are going into production when we are, which could push us up to 420 watt-hour per kilogram. This will only improve over time.
Hybrid is heavier because of the generator, and then fuel burn is not something we want to do, for all kinds of reasons. Batteries make the most sense, for cost, safety and