The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

In July 2018, Urban Aeronautics created a new subsidiary called Metro Skyways to handle the commercialisation of its CityHawk aircraft for urban air mobility. The program is based on the Fancraft lift fan technology that the Israeli group has been developing since 2003 for unmanned aircraft applications. At the time, the company said that a first flight as projected to happen in either 2021 or 2022. It is unclear what the timeline has been set for type certification and service entry.

Partners in the CityHawk program include RADA Electronics Industries (navigation systems and sensors), CertCenterCanada (flight test and development work), Safran (powerplant), HyPoint (hydrogen fuel cells) and Kearfott Corp. (navigation and guidance systems). Initially, the aircraft's power will come from a pair of Safran turboshaft engines. Longer term plans call for the power source to be replaced by compressed hydrogen fuel cells. MetroSkyways argues that battery-sourced electrical power is too inefficient for urban air mobility needs.

On June 11, 2020, Urban Aeronautics announced an agreement with HyPoint to provide a hydrogen fuel cell technology for its planned CityHawk eVTOL aircraft. The Israeli company believes that by late 2022 or early in 2023 it may be ready to fly a full-scale prototype with a hybrid electric propulsion, with a view a hydrogen-powered version of the six-seat design entering service between 2028 and 2030.

The CityHawk is based on Urban Aeronautics’ Cormorant unmanned aircraft, which is intended for cargo-carrying and a variety of aerial applications. A full-scale Cormorant technology demonstrator is already being flight tested and the company is evaluating whether the design’s payload bay can be adapted to make room for passengers and for the addition of a second engine. The hybrid electric versions of both aircraft are powered by a pair of Safran’s Arriel 2N turboshafts, which drive Urban Aeronautics’ patented Fancraft ducted fan propulsion system.

The hydrogen-powered version of the CityHawk is expected to have a range of around 125 miles (including 20 minutes of fuel reserves). The hybrid version is expected to be able to fly up to around 175 miles.  

Timeline

Projected

first delivery

Urban Aeronautics' Metro Skyways subsidiary aims to have a hydrogen-powered version of its CityHawk eVTOL aircraft in service between 2028 and 2030.

test flight

In June 2020, Urban Aeronautics said that it expected to achieve a first flight with the hybrid-electric CityHawk prototype within two and a half to three years.

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Metro Skyways' parent group Urban Aeronautics clearly has a strong pedigree in terms of its past experience with unmanned aircraft programs. Its leadership team have strong experience with major aerospace groups including Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries. Almost 14 years of development work went into the Fancraft technology on which CityHawk's powerplant is based, which potentially bodes well for a smooth development program. 

MetroSkyways claims that CityHawk will be "street legal", meaning permitted to land and takeoff from city streets. At the same time, it claims that is it the only urban air mobility contender that is working with technology that meets established standards of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The plan is to certify the aircraft to FAA's Part 27 standards, but the path to gaining approval for use of the aircraft from urban streets would seem to be extremely challenging.

In June 2020, Urban Aeronautics' CEO Rafi Yoeli told FutureFlight that the company is seeking funding to advance both the hybrid-electric and hydrogen-powered versions of the CityHawk. It has selected credible partners for propulsion systems and navigation systems, and still aims to secure partnerships with avionics suppliers and also with an established airframer to serve as the program's manufacturing partner.

CityHawk Models

CityHawk Specifications

local vtol Lift + Cruise

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    5
  • Range
    175 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    175 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    ducted fan
  • Power Source
    jet_fuel
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    2,580 lb
  • MGTOW
    4,250 lb
  • Payload Weight
    1,692 lb

Dimensions

  • Length
    n/a
  • Width
    10 ft
  • Height
    n/a
  • Wingspan
    n/a

Metro Skyways' CityHawk aircraft is powered by lift fans, driven, for now, by a pair of Safran 985-shp Arriel 2N turboshaft engines. In the longer term, these are to be replaced by compressed hydrogen fuel cells, which are set to be produced by HyPoint. The engines drive ducted fans, which form the basis for the manufacturer's Fancraft technology.

Key Personnel

Rafi Yoeli

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Founder