The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

UK Regulator Issues First eVTOL Design Organization Approval to Vertical Aerospace

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) this week issued design organization approval (DOA) to eVTOL aircraft developer Vertical Aerospace. The approval clears the way for the Bristol-based company to further advance its work to design and certify its four-passenger VX4 vehicle.

According to Vertical, it is the first eVTOL manufacturer to be issued a DOA by the UK air safety agency. The approval process involved an assessment of the start-up’s procedures and quality management systems, as well as the competence of its technical workforce. CAA inspectors also considered whether the company has all the necessary facilities and equipment to complete the type certification of a new aircraft.

Vertical DOA (designated as UK.21J.1001) has been issued under the category for small airplanes with eVTOL limitations. The approval means that the company’s engineering design organization is now compliant with the UK’s Part 21 Subpart J regulatory requirements.

Earlier in March, the CAA confirmed that it intends to adopt the Special Condition VTOL means of compliance developed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This decision is expected to facilitate the process by which the CAA's type certificate would be concurrently validated by EASA, of which the UK used to be a member state.

“Taken together, this progress provides essential regulatory clarity to Vertical on the requirements for the development of its VX4 and further discussions will continue with the CAA in the coming months, including robust technical familiarizations,” the company said in a written statement on March 30. “This positions the UK, alongside Europe, as a market with a clear regulatory framework for the design and manufacture of these novel electric aircraft.”

Vertical also confirmed that it has formally started the VX4’s type certification validation process with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). This means the company is now pursuing type certification in four jurisdictions, including with  the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency. Before starting series production of the aircraft, Vertical will also need to be issued with production organization approval.

Launch customers for the all-electric aircraft include Japan Airlines, which has agreed to take 100 vehicles through leasing group Avolon, and Marubeni Corporation with 200 preorders. Marubeni recently announced that it aims to deploy the VX4 as one of several eVTOL aircraft operators that will be participating in the advanced air mobility showcase during the 2025 Osaka World Expo.

“Receiving a DOA from the CAA is a huge testament to our team and the hard work we are doing to ensure safety is at the core of the VX4,” said Paul Harper, Vertical’s head of certification. “I believe that in formally working with JCAB, as the fourth regulator Vertical is committed to certifying with, we are on track for establishing the most detailed understanding of global regulators’ needs and differences for eVTOLs. This will give us a competitive edge in bringing the VX4 into service.”

Vertical’s program team includes leading aerospace companies such as Rolls-Royce, Honeywell, Leonardo, and GKN Aerospace. The company has reported more than 1,400 preorders for an aircraft that is expected to deliver a range of up to 100 miles at a 150 mph cruise speed. In September 2022, it started tethered hover flight testing with an initial prototype.