As Overair ramps up its efforts to bring advanced air mobility (AAM) to South Korea, the California-based eVTOL aircraft developer just received its first pre-order from a Korean customer. HeliKorea has agreed to purchase up to 20 of Overair’s Butterfly eVTOL aircraft, which the South Korean helicopter operator aims to use for various applications such as emergency medical transportation, cargo logistics, and firefighting.
HeliKorea and Overair signed a letter of intent covering the provisional order during a public ceremony last week at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX). During that event, Overair and its partner Hanwha Systems completed two additional agreements with key Korean partners: an infrastructure developer and the national police academy.
The first of these was a memorandum of understanding with Daewoo Engineering & Construction in which they pledged to collaborate on a concept of operations for AAM activities in Southeast Asia, including the establishment of vertiports and air traffic management systems. The second agreement is with Korea’s Police Human Resources Development Institute to integrate AAM into its law enforcement operations.
The new order and agreements build on Overair’s announcement last week of another memorandum of understanding it signed with Korea’s Jeju special self-governing province. Together with its partner and investor Hanwha Systems, Overair will work with local officials to lay the groundwork for an AAM economy on Jeju Island, collaborating on aspects such as infrastructure, manufacturing, maintenance, and training of pilots and other personnel. Jeju officials aim to use eVTOL aircraft such as the Butterfly for public, medical, and tourism operations.
“Overair is committed to supporting South Korea’s strong AAM ambitions through partnerships like these that ensure all facets of the ecosystem are considered,” said Overair CEO Ben Tigner. “Local governments, operators, and infrastructure providers will play an integral role as we enter this new era of transportation.”
Aside from HeliKorea, the only other customer that has publicly committed to purchasing aircraft from Overair is Bristow, a global helicopter operator with headquarters in the UK. In December 2021, Bristow agreed to purchase between 20 and 50 Butterfly eVTOL aircraft. At the same time, Bristow and Overair entered into a partnership to develop an operational framework and commercialization strategy for the aircraft. An Overair spokesperson told AIN that the company is in talks with several other prospective operators interested in purchasing its Butterfly aircraft.
Overair’s Butterfly is a fully electric, six-seat eVTOL aircraft designed to provide a sustainable aerial ride-sharing option for urban areas with dense populations and heavy traffic. The aircraft's cabin can also be configured for cargo and medevac applications, with room for a stretcher. Its design features four large tilting propellers that spin slowly in hover mode and even slower during cruise flight. Overair says its design reduces power consumption and boosts its payload capacity while producing significantly less noise than helicopters and other eVTOL aircraft.
The company has so far tested two subscale technology demonstrators, and it expects to complete the assembly of its first full-scale Butterfly prototype in the coming weeks. Overair’s spokesperson told AIN that the wing and fuselage were mated this week and that the tail and nacelles are up next. Overair plans to begin flight testing with the full-scale prototype in the first half of 2024, and it expects to have the aircraft certified and in commercial service in 2027.