UK Startup Develops “an eVTOL Bus”

Bris­tol-based UK start­up, Sora Avi­a­tion, is devel­op­ing an eVTOL bus with zero emis­sions, low noise and afford­able tick­et prices for the Advanced Air Mobil­i­ty (AAM) mar­ket, writes wearefinn.com, who recent­ly inter­viewed com­pa­ny co-Founder and CEO, Furqan. 

Furqan served as the Tech­ni­cal Author­i­ty on AAM at GKN and has led mul­ti­ple elec­tric, hybrid and hydro­gen air­craft devel­op­ment pro­grams from con­cep­tu­al design to flight test­ing. A Fel­low of the IMechE, he chairs the ADS Advanced Air Mobil­i­ty group in the UK.

He works along­side com­pa­ny CTO, Mal­colm Fos­ter, who has over 40 years of expe­ri­ence in air­craft design at Piper, Bell, AgustaWest­land, GKN and the ATI as well as on the Evi­a­tion Alice. Fos­ter holds a life­time achieve­ment award from the Ver­ti­cal Flight Soci­ety.

The name Sora () is Japan­ese for Sky.


Where did the con­cept for an eVTOL bus come from?

Five years ago we had the idea for an eVTOL bus when we were at GKN. Sev­er­al OEMs were design­ing eVTOLs, Uber ele­vate had just pop­u­larised the idea of air taxis, and we were look­ing into that mar­ket for GKN. We realised most of the mar­ket data showed sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ty in air­port shut­tles going from down­town to the air­port, and air­port to down­town in a city.

We looked at that mar­ket and we thought, if you’re going to go from down­town to the air­port, why would you do it four peo­ple at a time, those routes are real­ly dense in terms of demand.

Do you fore­see strong demand?

They’re real­ly good use cas­es. Nobody wants to dri­ve to the air­port, where park­ing is often lim­it­ed as well as pro­hib­i­tive­ly expen­sive and will­ing­ness to pay is high­er due to time sen­si­tiv­i­ty. So they’re real­ly good AAM routes. Yet, from a pas­sen­ger scal­a­bil­i­ty point of view, four pas­sen­gers didn’t real­ly make sense to us for those routes. Around the same time, there were a lot of ques­tions about the costs of urban air mobil­i­ty, so we start­ed look­ing at ways to get expen­di­ture down and one of the best ways is to car­ry more peo­ple, because you split the cost of the trip over a greater num­ber of pas­sen­gers.

There are sev­er­al eVTOL con­cepts out there, but they’re gen­er­al­ly one to six pas­sen­ger air­craft. The S‑1 is the only cred­i­ble eVTOL bus approach out there that’s being com­mer­cial­ly pur­sued, and that’s one thing that led us to take a step for­ward with the sup­port of our investors. We think entry into ser­vice for an air­craft like this will be around 2031.

How are you man­ag­ing the infra­struc­ture chal­lenges that come with a larg­er eVTOL?

A typ­i­cal 5 seat air taxi today might have a max­i­mum dimen­sion of 15 to 16 metres, that’s con­sis­tent with a small to medi­um heli­copter. The 30-seater we’re devel­op­ing has a max­i­mum dimen­sion of about 22 metres, so it is big­ger, but it’s not ridicu­lous­ly big­ger for the num­ber of pas­sen­gers it car­ries. One of our goals now is to engage with infra­struc­ture devel­op­ers and make them aware that these kinds of vehi­cles are on the way with very favourable eco­nom­ics and there­fore their require­ments should be con­sid­ered dur­ing ver­ti­port design.

Why haven’t oth­er eVTOL devel­op­ers launched a ‘bus’ before now?

Uber were real­ly the dri­ving force behind mak­ing peo­ple realise that a poten­tial mar­ket exist­ed around advanced air mobil­i­ty. Their entire oper­a­tional focus was around four to five seat ground vehi­cles and that trans­lat­ed to their eVTOL stud­ies. Most ear­ly devel­op­ers were work­ing with Uber, and Uber made it clear they were inter­est­ed in five seaters.The com­pa­ny has since sold the Ele­vate busi­ness.

The sec­ond bit is a mis­con­cep­tion that a larg­er elec­tric air­craft needs mag­i­cal­ly bet­ter bat­ter­ies. It requires bet­ter bat­ter­ies if you want to go a sig­nif­i­cant­ly longer range, but if you’re only try­ing to go the same range as a small elec­tric air­craft, and do the same mis­sions, you can do that on exist­ing ones. If you can go 100 miles in a five seat eVTOL, you can go 100 miles in a 30-seat eVTOL, you just car­ry a pro­por­tion­al amount of bat­ter­ies.

We do believe that a num­ber of small eVTOL com­pa­nies will even­tu­al­ly want to tran­si­tion to a larg­er air­craft, but doing it at a small scale and get­ting to mar­ket first for them is a pri­or­i­ty, and if you want to do that then a small­er air­craft is just quick­er and cheap­er.

How does the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion path­way look?

EASA’s cer­ti­fi­ca­tion require­ments for eVTOLs are already con­sis­tent with com­mer­cial trans­port air­craft safe­ty tar­gets. From a prece­dent point of view, larg­er cer­ti­fied rotor­craft than the S‑1 fly around the world today.

One advan­tage we will have is that a num­ber of the air taxi com­pa­nies will have cer­ti­fied years before us, and that’ll real­ly help inform a lot of our devel­op­ment and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion work. We won’t have to push the pio­neer­ing of all of these reg­u­la­tions. They will be in place and be well estab­lished by the time we’re tar­get­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

For more infor­ma­tion 


(News Source: https://www.wearefinn.com/)

(Images: Sora Avi­a­tion)

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