Vertical Aerospace today unveiled the revised design for its planned all-electric eVTOL aircraft. The new model will be called the VA-1X and the UK company said it will be able to fly up to around 100 miles at speeds of 150 mph, entering service in 2024.
The new design, which features a fixed-wing with tiltrotors and a V-shaped tail, marks a significant change from the earlier Seraph technology demonstrator with its eight rotors installed on beams. In January 2020, Vertical Aerospace announced its intention to switch to a fixed-wing configuration after concluding that it needed to provide more range.
In an August 26 statement, the company said that it now aims to achieve a first flight with the new prototype in 2021. It will soon start to build the aircraft at its headquarters in Bristol.
The VA-1X will have a cabin to accommodate up to four passengers and a single-seat cockpit for a pilot. Payload capacity will be 992 pounds, which is almost twice as much as the Seraph.
With a wingspan of just over 49 feet and a 42-feet-long fuselage, Vertical Aerospace says the new design will be able to take off and land at existing helipads. The company claims that its distributed propulsion system, powered by lithium-ion batteries, will make the VA-1X around 30 times quieter than a conventional helicopter. It also said more efficient aerodynamics will allow it to fly with far less energy and power than a helicopter.
Honeywell is providing fly-by-wire flight controls and control laws for the aircraft. Other systems suppliers and partners have been selected but these are still working with Vertical Aerospace under non-disclosure agreements.
Despite the change to a fixed-wing tiltrotor design, Vertical Aerospace still intends to seek EASA certification under the European agency’s new Special Conditions-VTOL rules. With approval from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, the company has already conducted a number of test flights with earlier technology demonstrators.
Over the past three months, Vertical Aerospace has been strengthening its technical team with senior appointments including former Rolls-Royce chief engineer Tim Williams to the same role. Dean More has joined from Boeing as lead flight test engineer and former Jet Aviation and Gulfstream executive Eric Samson is the new head of engineering.
In October 2019, Vertical Aerospace, which was formed in 2016 by energy entrepreneur Stephen Fitzpatrick, acquired Formula 1 motorsport engineering group MGI. The company said it has tapped Formula 1 expertise in areas such as lightweight materials and fast-track prototyping to advance its eVTOL plans. The company now employs 114 people.
This month, Vertical Aerospace relaunched a new fundraising round after it delayed an earlier campaign due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is now seeking to raise around $40 million, having previously indicated that it will likely need to spend $100 million to achieve type certification.