An Australian-made eVTOL aircraft has taken flight for the first time. Sydney-based advanced air mobility start-up AMSL Aero announced on February 21 that a prototype of its five-seat Vertiia eVTOL aircraft has successfully completed its first hover flights.
Since the start of the Vertiia prototype's flight testing campaign, AMSL Aero has conducted 11 remotely piloted hover tests with it, a company spokesperson told FutureFlight. Those flights, during which the aircraft was tethered to the ground, reached altitudes of up to three meters (10 feet) and each lasted for about one minute, with one flight exceeding 90 seconds. All of the hover fight tests took place in the Central West region of New South Wales, just west of Sydney.
“The Vertiia prototype flew better than we expected," said Andrew Moore, AMSL’s CEO and the inventor of the Vertiia. "It was remarkably smooth and a delight to fly.”
This is the first time that an eVTOL aircraft designed and built in Australia has flown, according to AMSL. The company says the all-electric Vertiia will be the most energy-efficient and longest-range eVTOL aircraft in the world, with a range of about 250 kilometers (155 miles) on a single charge. However, other companies are targeting the same range limits, such as Lilium with its seven-seat fixed-wing eVTOL model.
It features a tilt-wing design with eight sets of motors and propellers installed on a seven-meter (23-foot) blown-wing structure. The blown-wing configuration provides the aircraft with the same aerodynamic efficiency as fixed-wing eVTOLs with a much larger wingspan while maintaining the compact size needed to operate in tight urban spaces. The Vertiia prototype now being tested is just slightly smaller than the planned production version, weighing in at 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds). The full-scale version is expected to weigh less than 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds).
AMSL hopes to eventually develop a hydrogen-powered version of the Vertiia that the company says could have four times the range of the all-electric version. The company is also exploring a fully autonomous version of the aircraft that would not require a pilot on board.
The full-scale Vertiia aircraft will seat four passengers plus one pilot or up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of cargo. A third cabin configuration for air ambulance operations would be able to accommodate a single patient plus three medical personnel. AMSL expects emergency medical services to be likely early adopters of the Vertiia, and the company has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Sydney-based CareFlight to develop aeromedical applications for rural and regional healthcare in Australia.
“Vertiia is not only safe and quiet but it was also developed for the harsh long-distance conditions in Australia," said AMSL co-founder Siobhan Lyndon. "If it can work in Australia, it can work anywhere.
"Unlike aeromedical airplanes that require a runway," added Lyndon, "Vertiia will carry patients directly from any location straight to the hospital, significantly reducing the complexity and time often required to transport vulnerable patients. It will also be quieter and safer than helicopters and will eventually cost as little as a car to maintain and run, transforming aeromedical transport into a far more affordable, accessible, safer, and reliable option.”
AMSL has been developing the Vertiia since 2018 and has been working closely with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority since the start. The company has already initiated the type certification process and has obtained an experimental airworthiness certificate for the Vertiia prototype. So far, AMSL Aero has raised over AU$40 million ($27.4 million) from private investors and government sources. The company plans for its aircraft to achieve type certification and enter service by 2026.