Urban Aeronautics has raised the first $10 million of a $100 million Series A funding round to support its plans to develop the hydrogen-powered CityHawk eVTOL aircraft. The new investment comes from New York-based emergency medical transportation group Besadno, Israeli automobile retailer Talcar Corp., and an undisclosed Brazilian private investor.
In July Urban Aeronautics unveiled a new design for the five-seat CityHawk, with improved aerodynamic performance and other enhancements resulting from three years of testing with a technology demonstrator powered by a Safran Arriel 2N turboshaft engine. The new model will feature a pair of the Tel Aviv-based company’s patented Fancraft counter-rotating ducted fans. The aircraft has no wings or rotors, with the distinctive fuselage acting as a lifting surface.
California-based HyPoint will provide its hydrogen fuel cells, which will be paired with electric motors. This technology is expected to be ready for production in 2028, and, in the meantime, work will continue using a hybrid combination of turbine and electric motors.
Urban Aeronautics also intends to incorporate new flight controls and a navigation system provided by Kearfott to support stable hovering at low altitudes in urban environments. It has a partnership with Universal Avionics covering pilot displays, sensors, and avionics for the CityHawk.
The existing technology demonstrator is fitted with Elbit Systems' EVS 4000 enhanced vision system. Urban Aeronautics says it is working with the Israeli avionics group on a head-up primary flight display for the aircraft.
In August 2020, Besadno subsidiary Hatzolah Air placed a preliminary order for four CityHawks that it intends to use for air ambulance operations. The company will help Urban Aeronautics market emergency medical service applications for the aircraft.
The redesigned CityHawk is expected to deliver range for a pilot plus four passengers of around 93 miles and speeds of up to 150 mph. Projected noise levels when flying at 700 feet would be around 70 dB.
Urban Aeronautics expects to be able to certify the CityHawk under the FAA’s existing Part 27 rules for helicopters. The company, which formed in 2006 and has conducted over 300 test flights with various prototypes, aims to get an initial hybrid-electric version of the aircraft certified and in service in 2026, with the hydrogen version to follow in 2030.
While development work continues, the company is conducting a joint study with vertiports group Skyports to assess the infrastructure needs for introducing air taxi services in cities across the Middle East. It also has a partnership agreement with Singapore-based helicopter flight booking platform Ascent to consider adding eVTOL operators to its network in Southeast Asia.
Reflecting on reports earlier this year that the Israeli company might seek partnerships in the United Arab Emirates, Urban Aeronautics CEO Nimrod Golan-Yanay recently told FutureFlight this prospect remains a distinct possibility following the recent Abraham Accords diplomatic agreement between Israel and the UAE. In addition to Israel, he identified Dubai as a potential early adopter location for eVTOL air taxi services.
“While we know that vigorous testing and regulatory compliance that comes with any new aviation technology is still in development across the globe, we are extremely excited and bolstered by the milestones we’ve achieved in recent months that show how ideally suited CityHawk is for practical applications right within the city itself,” Golan-Yanay commented. The company also sees CityHawk being suitable for cargo operations, with its 194 cubic feet of space for carrying freight and a maximum takeoff weight of 1,930 kg (4,250 pounds).
The next phase of development work will involve manufacturing three production-conforming prototypes to initiate the certification phase, with further funding needs anticipated within a year or so to complete the approval process. Urban Aeronautics has made an agreement with Israel's Bazan Group to supply hydrogen for a planned demonstration project.