Italian emergency medical flight operator Avionord is investing in eVTOL aircraft developer Manta and has provisionally agreed to add up to 15 of its hybrid-electric ANN vehicles to its fleet starting in 2026. The amount of the investment has not been disclosed, but Avionord will hold equity in Manta Aircraft Italia, joining a group of five other technology companies now partnering in the program, including YCom, BSim, Powerflex, Pantecnica, and another undisclosed backer.
Milan-based Avionord, which was formed in 2008, operates a fleet of Bombardier Learjets and Leonardo AW109 helicopters for services that include rapid interventions to get medical personnel to accident scenes, human organ transportation, and executive charter flights. It will work with Manta to investigate the potential for eVTOL aircraft to be deployed in these missions.
Manta is building a second, one-third-scale prototype of its ANN2 model to join the first example in flight testing this summer. The company’s engineering team is also preparing a test bench for the aircraft’s hybrid propulsion system and working on the production of full-scale prototypes that are due to be ready in the second half of 2023, marking the start of its EASA type certification process.
The ANN aircraft are intended to operate in either VTOL or STOL mode, potentially offering a range of between 300 and 900 km (186 to 559 miles) and a cruise speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). Plans call for the propulsion system to transition to all-electric or hydrogen power as the technology behind these options advances.
“After analyzing the market and considering our time-critical missions, we see that the Manta ANN platform is today the only eVTOL offering a range of several hundred kilometers, which is useful for missions to quickly transport organs from one hospital to another, avoiding being dependent on airports and road transport,” said Avionord CEO Eugenio Cremascoli. “The ANN eVTOLs will enable us to reduce the transportation time of [human] organs that have a limited life when not connected to dedicated machines using aircraft with reduced operating costs.”
Manta has also received an undisclosed amount of financial backing from the Italian government-backed CDP Venture Capital fund.