Jetson has bought a private airfield in the Tuscany region of Italy to establish a base for extensive flight testing of its Jetson One personal eVTOL vehicle as it seeks to freeze the design by next April ahead of the planned start of production in 2023. The Sweden-based start-up is working to complete a $10 million seed funding round that it says will allow it to prepare for manufacturing by more than doubling its workforce from almost 20 to around 50 next year and converting a 19th-century silk-making factory.
The company still aims to produce the single-seater model under FAA Part 103 rules for ultralight aircraft, for which operators do not need a pilot’s license. However, it now plans to deliver each Jetson One fully assembled, rather than as a kit to be put together by owners.
Among the improvements already introduced to the design is weatherproofing of the instruments and controls in the open cockpit so that it can operate in wet conditions. Jetson is also working with an undisclosed partner to develop a ballistic safety parachute that could be deployed when the vehicle is as low as 20 meters (66 feet).
The Jetson One cockpit has a flight computer and fly-by-wire controls. The operator has to deal only with a pair of joysticks: a three-axis unit to control the direction of flight with the right hand and a throttle in the left hand to control the power from the vehicle's electric motors. The company is producing a virtual-reality simulator on a moving platform that it expects to be available for use by prospective customers by October.
The vehicle can fly for a maximum of only 20 minutes, including a safety margin, with the actual duration determined by factors such as the operator’s weight. According to Jetson co-founder Tomasz Patan, if the operator disregards the low-battery light, the aircraft will start an automatic landing process.
Patan concedes that the Jetson One is not suitable for use over densely populated areas and that range is essentially limited to about 25 km (16 miles) in a straight line. Recharging the eight batteries with a standard AC socket take about an hour, and Jetson envisages customers keeping spare, swappable batteries in locations that they commonly visit.
The company had aimed to start deliveries of the Jetson One by the end of 2022 but has taken more time to refine its design. According to Patan, the company already holds bookings for 500 copies of the $92,000 vehicle, with down payments of $22,000 collected for each one. He said that many of the early takers are eager to enjoy a new personal travel experience and that quite a few of them already hold a private pilot’s license.
At the new facility near Arezzo in Tuscany, the company has already built five flying examples of the Jetson One. In addition to the Italian operation, it has incorporated a subsidiary in the U.S., which it views as a strong market for the flying car.
The $8 million Jetson has raised to date includes substantial backing from telecommunications executive Luca Spada and gaming industry entrepreneur Nik Robinson.