Indian digital technology group Tech Mahindra is partnering with California-based start-up NFT to complete the development of the latter company's four-seat Aska eVTOL personal transportation vehicle. Bangalore-based Tech Mahindra, which has experience in both automotive and aerospace programs, will provide expertise in areas such as design, data analysis, development of composites and other advanced materials, crash dynamics, batteries, and structural testing.
The hybrid-electric vehicle has been in development for four years and NFT says it is on track to complete type certification in 2026. It is marketing the Aska as a flying SUV but intends to certify the aircraft under the FAA’s Part 23 rules. Its anticipated maximum takeoff weight of between two and three metric tons (4,400 to 6,600 pounds), makes it too heavy to be certified in the light sport aircraft category.
In April 2021, NFT unveiled a new design for the Aska that looks more like other lift-and-cruise eVTOL designs than the earlier flying car version. With the ability to operate in range-extending short-takeoff-and-landing mode, and with an engine that recharges batteries in flight, it is expected to be able to fly up to 250 miles on a single electric charge.
According to Lakshmanan Chidambaram, president of Tech Mahindra’s enterprise Americas unit, the company has more than 20 years of experience in designing airframes and systems for various unspecified regional and business aircraft. In February 2021, the company joined the team led by Spike Aerospace to develop the S-512 supersonic business jet. Earlier this month, Airbus confirmed Tech Mahindra’s selection, along with its partner Aertec, as an engineering, manufacturing engineering, and services strategic supplier.
“From developing from concept to conducting airworthiness certification, Tech Mahindra provides end-to-end services and our in-depth experience in compliance and regulations [with agencies] like the FAA, EASA, and Transport Canada helps customers in type certification approvals for new programs and product sustenance,” Chidambaram told FutureFlight.
Tech Mahindra is part of the wider Mahindra Group, which was formed in 1945 and has around 260,000 employees in some 100 countries active in multiple sectors including tractor production, utility vehicles, information technology, and financial services. With annual revenues in excess of $5 billion, the division mainly focuses on advancing technologies such as 5G communications, blockchain data sharing and analysis, quantum computing, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence.
“We are confident that our engagement with Tech Mahindra will boost the development, testing, and certification process to meet Aska’s commercialization target for 2026,” said NFT co-founder and CEO Guy Kaplinsky. “Tech Mahindra’s aim to deliver tomorrow’s experiences today solidly supports our mission to solve the worldwide problem of traffic congestion and improve the quality of people’s lives.”
With facilities in Los Altos and Mountain View, California, NFT has around 35 employees and says that these include engineers from companies including Gulfstream, Sikorsky, and Mitsubishi Aircraft. It also has recruited staffers from several automotive companies. The company says that it is in discussions with prospective suppliers for key systems such as the engine and the avionics.