Samad Aerospace is preparing to begin flight testing a 50 percent scale version of its planned e-Starling eVTOL aircraft in the second half of September. The UK-based company will start with a series of conventional takeoff and landing sorties, followed in October by vertical takeoffs, with transitions between hover and cruise flight.
Two half-scale prototypes are in the final stages of construction for these trials. The Samad engineering team will use these to finalize the design of the e-Starling, which will carry a pilot and up to five passengers. The company has already flown 10 and 20 percent scale models at its headquarters at Cranfield airfield.
According to Samad founder and CEO Seyed Mohseni, the full-scale prototype of the e-Starling is still expected to fly in 2023. However, he acknowledged that disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed the company’s work by around six months.
Mohseni told FutureFlight that he has signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with several prospective investors and hopes to be able to confirm these investments by the end of September. In November 2019, he said that the company was seeking to raise around $20 million and that it expected to need almost $78 million to complete development of the e-Starling.
In tandem with work on the e-Starling, Samad is also developing a two-seat aircraft now designated as the Q-Starling (formerly the Q22). This is a different design with separate sets of fans being used for lift and cruise modes.
Mohseni described the Q-Starling as “a luxury personal aircraft, like a Lamborghini.” He said it will be simpler to certify as it will be categorized purely for personal use. Samad is now negotiating a partnership with an undisclosed “medium-sized manufacturer” that will co-develop the smaller model.
For now, the privately owned company appears to have shelved plans to develop an all-electric two-seat flying car called HUMA. Mohseni said that he expects the longer-range intra-city market to take off faster than shorter-range urban air mobility eVTOL applications. That said, a longer-term plan to develop the larger Starling Jet regional airliner has also been deferred to allow Samad to concentrate its efforts on the e-Starling and Q-Starling models.
Meanwhile, Mohseni and his fellow investors are contemplating plans to move part of the company away from the UK. He said that despite recent pledges by the UK government to support electric aviation, the state-backed investment offered through the Aerospace Technology Institute is not available to small and medium-sized companies. “They [the ATI] are effectively encouraging us to leave the country, and we may have to take our projects to a lower-cost country,” he stated.