The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

The Skai eVTOL aircraft will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Its developer Alaka'i Technologies unveiled the design on May 29, 2019 and claims that its key flight control systems (including fly-by-light technology) have all been approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Board member Dr Bruce Holmes indicated to FutureFlight that FAA is supporting an "accelerated" certification program and, on this basis, the company claims it will be ready for series production and first deliveries during the first quarter of 2021.

The design philosophy for the program is to have as few moving parts as possible. Alaka'i Technology's belief is that this will result in type certification process under the FAA's FAR 21.17 rules for very light aircraft. The company claims that the simplicity of the Skai design should also improve reliability and reduce the aircraft's maintenance requirements. For instance, the anticipated time-between-overhaul for hydrogen fuel cells is around 20,000 flight hours, which is significantly longer than that of conventionally powered piston and turbine engines.

Alaka'i Technologies has not published a detailed timeline for the program, but has indicated that it hopes to start the production phase by the first quarter of 2021. The company believes that early customers for Skai will likely include operators serving regional and more rural markets than the urban environments being targeted by most eVTOL aircraft developers. It believes that, prior to full type certification, it may be able to support some trial operations with public service applications, such as the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard.

Timeline

program launched

Alaka'i Technologies unveils plans for Skai aircraft

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

When the Skai design was unveiled by Alaka'i Technologies in late May 2019, the plans appeared to be quite advanced. The start-up had not been prominent on the industry's radar screen and it remains very unclear how much funding it has for the program. Also unclear is the timeline for certification and service entry. Alaka'i claims that much of the technology for the aircraft is already approved for us, but it has not provided much evidence to support this contention. The involvement of BMW Designworks lends credibility to the program.

The company intends to attract more partners to contribute to the Skai program. It says that some of these may be involved on a risk-sharing basis, which would potentially spread the development costs.

Skai Models

Skai Specifications

Optionally-piloted vtol Multicopter

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    5
  • Range
    400 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    85 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    multi rotor
  • Power Source
    fuel_cell
  • Endurance
    240 min
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    n/a
  • Payload Weight
    1,000 lb

Dimensions

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

With hydrogen fuel cells as its power source, the Skai aircraft developers say it will be far more efficient than eVTOL designs dependent on still-limited battery technology. The aircraft is also supposed to feature fly-by-light controls and an array of flight deck technology to support autonomous operations.

Three hydrogen fuel cells will provide power for six 100 kW electric motors that will power six rotors fitted on booms protruding from the top of the fuselage. Each fuel cell will have capacity for between 200 and 400 liters of liquid hydrogen. Alaka'i Technologies says that refueling these cells will take 10 minutes and that the cells will have a service life of between 15,000 and 20,000 flight hours.

Key Personnel

Brian Morrison

Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Founder, President

Dr. Bruce Holmes

Board Member