Despite Covid delays, the UK-based company still hopes to get the full-scale version in the air during 2023.
- September 2, 2020
Samad Aerospace launched in 2017 with plans to develop a family of electrically powered, ducted fan aircraft, starting with a UAV (the UAV Starling) and also including a light eVTOL aircraft (e-Starling) and a business jet (Starling Jet). When the company was launched in 2017, the plan called for the UAV to enter service in 2019, followed by the e-Starling in 2022 and the Starling Jet in 2024.
However, in November 2019, founder and CEO Dr. Seyed Mohseni told FutureFlight that these timelines have slipped back to accommodate the need to raise a further $60 million funds and changes to the business plan. The UAV Starling project now appears to be sidelined. Instead, work has now begun on a smaller two-seat version of the e-Starling that will be called the Q-Starling (formerly known as the Q22). In early September 2020, Samad was preparing to fly a 50-percent scale model of the e-Starling, having earlier flown 10- and 20-percent scale models.
The plan now calls for a full-scale prototype of the six-seat e-Starling to make a first flight in 2023, en route to achieving type certification and first deliveries by the end of 2025. The e-Starling is intended mainly for personal and business transportation use, with range to allow for city-to-city flights.
As of September 2020, Samad had suspended work on its planned 10-seat Starling Jet and also the two-seat Home & Urban Mobility Aircraft (HUMA). The HUMA is a fundamentally different design from the e-Starling, and is intended specifically for air taxi urban air mobility applications. The design features counter-rotating rotors that tilt forward for horizontal cruise mode. The wing and the cabin can also turn 90 degrees. Samad anticipates that the purchase price for HOMA could be around $250,000.
Samad intends for all its planned models to be all-electric aircraft. However, acknowledging that current battery technology does not support the longer-range it has in mind, the company intends to bring the models into production with hybrid-electric powerplant. This would be based around an as-yet-unspecified diesel motor. The company believes operators would be able to land at gas stations to refuel. At the same time, it is considering hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to electric batteries.
In September 2020, Mohseni told FutureFlight that he was close to signing one or more memorandums of understanding with prospective investors as he seeks to raise up to around $80 million to complete the e-Starling and Q-Starling programs. He indicated that he intends to partner with medium-sized aerospace manufacturer to allow them to focus on the Q-Starling to allow his team to focus on the e-Starling. He also suggested that the company may relocate some development activities to another lower-cost country, in part in reaction to not receiving what Mohseni considers to be appropriate levels of financial support from UK authorities.
FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:
Samad Aerospace is a small UK-based startup that seems to have a worthwhile concept that it might be struggling to bring to market due to a lack of resources.
Its business plan and development timelines appear to have shifted significantly during 2019. The company's plans for powering its aircraft appear somewhat uncertain. For instance, the idea that early adopters of its diesel hybrid-electric aircraft will be able to refuel at roadside gas stations seems far-fetched and no work seems to be going into refining the plans for required ground infrastructure.
As of September 2020, it was around six months behind its earlier timeline goals for the core e-Starling and Q-Starling aircraft. It also acknowledged that it needed to raise up to around $80 million in capital, starting with an initial goal of $20 million.
Samad Aerospace is developing the UAV Starling as the first of three members of its Starling Jet family of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft—the other two being the seven-seat eStarling and the 10-seat, longer-range Starling Jet.