California-based eVTOL company Overair and Urban Movement Labs (UML) will begin work “immediately” on infrastructure studies tied to urban air mobility in the greater Los Angeles area under a new collaboration announced Tuesday. The partnership will focus on community, government, and industry engagement to ensure the implementation of what Overair calls safe, equitable, convenient, and sustainable urban air mobility technology.
Dubbed the Urban Air Mobility Partnership, the alliance will explore operational and infrastructure development considerations. Meanwhile, Overair will help study the noise effects of eVTOL vehicles and support community engagement efforts to plan workforce and economic development opportunities within the new UAM industry.
Overair aims to position its Butterfly eVTOL vehicle as an alternative transportation choice within metropolitan areas. Each Butterfly will carry up to six people (five passengers and a pilot), or 1,100 pounds of cargo, and travel distances of some 100 miles at speeds of up to 200 mph. Overair's team aims to start commercial operations in 2026.
"Our partnership with Urban Movement Labs is a step forward on our path to future operations," said Ben Tigner, CEO and cofounder of Overair. "The Los Angeles metro area can benefit greatly from advanced air mobility, given the increased travel times in Southern California on a daily basis. Working together with UML on planning efforts grounded in community engagement, we're on the path to providing reliable, affordable, equitable, and sustainable transportation options to the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas."
Earlier this month, Urban Movement Labs added air traffic management specialist Skyroads to its partnership roster. The German company is developing what it calls an Automated Airspace Management and Vehicle Guidance System (AAVS) to manage passenger and cargo drones in the demanding environment over densely populated metropolitan areas.
Spun off from Karem Aircraft in 2020, Overair unveiled the Butterfly concept in 2021. The Butterfly's technologies create critical power reserves using today's commercially available battery cells, which Overair says translate into advances in safety, passenger experience, and community development.
Overair maintains operating partnerships with companies such as Hanwha Systems and Bristow Group, and the team completed its full-scale propulsion system testing during this year’s first quarter. The company released a video of the system, including its distinguishing large tilting propellers, upon the start of the testing in January. It aims to start test flights with a production-conforming prototype aircraft in 2023.
According to Overair, the large blade area of the propellers, combined with their slow rotation speed and low disk loading, will minimize pressure disturbance and deliver less noise compared with helicopters and other eVTOL designs. The noise level at hover (measured at a distance of 100 meters) is expected to not exceed 55 dBA, while at cruise (measured at 500 meters) it would fall to about 30 dBA.