Manta Aircraft has recruited a quartet of partners to support the development of its ANN family of hybrid-electric VTOL/STOL aircraft. The Italian start-up is being joined by software specialist Kineton, along with Pantecnica and Powerflex, which bring expertise in dynamic analysis and special materials, and engine components group Pietro Rosa.
Kineton’s main contribution to the program will be to develop software to support human-machine interfaces and flight plan management. The company has extensive experience in developing advanced engineering solutions in sectors including aerospace and automobiles.
Pantecnica and Powerflex, which like Kineton are based in Italy, will support design development and testing for the ANN aircraft. They will also contribute anti-vibration and acoustic shielding systems.
Work on the propulsion system for the ANN vehicles will now be supported by Pietro Rosa, which specializes in producing air foils and blades for aero engines. Other program partners named by Manta include air traffic management automation specialist Skyroads (formerly D3 Technologies) and composites supplier Ycom.
Since conducting an initial flight with a one-third scale model of the ANN2 aircraft in December 2020, the Manta team has frozen the design and has been conducting wind tunnel testing. It now expects to have a full-scale prototype built by the end of next summer, as it aims to complete type certification for the two-seat model under EASA’s new special conditions VTOL rules in 2025.
The company is also working on a four-seater called the ANN4 and a high-performance drone. When operating in STOL mode from runways as short as 650 feet, the aircraft are expected to offer a range of up to 900 km (559 miles) and a cruise speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), with the objective of supporting flights between hundreds of small airfields and other suitable landing sites in cities across Europe. In addition to personal transportation and commercial air taxi and scheduled regional air mobility services, Manta envisages roles for the ANN family such as logistics deliveries, law enforcement, infrastructure surveillance, and emergency medical support.
So far, the program has been supported by initial seed investments and a Series A funding round supported by a group of European entrepreneurs. The company expects to close a Series B round before the end of 2022.
The all-composite ANN aircraft features a V-shaped tail, a fixed-wing, and a forward canard. A hybrid propulsion system consists of an unspecified turbine generator that can run on Jet-A fuel or bio-diesel and electric motors driving eight ducted fans, four of which are installed in the wing, with four more in the fuselage.
Manta’s founders have extensive experience in the automotive and yacht-building businesses, and CEO and CTO Lucas Marchesini has worked with Pilatus Aircraft, which builds the popular PC-12 and PC-24 business aircraft. The company, which also has a subsidiary in Italy, intends to employ rapid prototype development techniques used in the world of Formula 1 car racing. It is being advised by Giuseppe Orsi, the former chairman and CEO of Italy’s Leonardo aerospace group.