The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Airbus Partners with Japanese Helicopter Operator for eVTOL Flight Tests

Japanese helicopter operator Hiratagakuen has partnered with European aerospace manufacturer Airbus to bring advanced air mobility services to Japan’s Kansai region. 

The two companies aim to launch a commercial transportation service using the four-seat CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft, a project that has already been approved by Japan’s Osaka Prefecture, according to Airbus. The partnership will explore use cases for the CityAirbus NextGen, including emergency medical services, ecotourism, and commercial air transport solutions. 

Under their agreement, the two companies are collaborating to create a simulation of ideal flight routes and a concept of operations for eVTOL flight services in the Kansai region, which includes Osaka. A demonstration flight is scheduled to take place there later this year. 

For that flight, Hiratagakuen will use one of its H135 helicopters to test new navigation and communication technologies that will enable eVTOLs to safely fly in urban environments while also simulating CityAirbus NextGen’s flight configuration. 

“We are very pleased to conduct a demonstration flight in the Osaka-Kansai region with Airbus for the future of mobility, using the latest H135 helicopter,” said Mitsuhiro Hirata, vice president of Hiratagakuen’s aviation operation division. “We have been operating Airbus helicopters for many years and highly appreciate their high safety, performance, operational reliability, and proven after-sales support.

“We are aware that a revolution in air transportation is now approaching in the Osaka area, and we expect CityAirbus NextGen to play a central role in this revolution,” Hirata added.

The CityAirbus NextGen, which Airbus revealed in 2021, is a piloted eVTOL prototype that can carry four passengers up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) while traveling at a cruise speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). Airbus plans to conduct the first test flight of the prototype aircraft in 2023, and the company has said it expects to receive EASA type certification by 2025.