The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

FutureFlight Weekly News Roundup

Wright Converts Crop-spraying Aircraft to Hybrid Electric Power

Wright Electric and Axter Aerospace have started flight testing a Thrush crop-spraying aircraft that they have converted to use a hybrid-electric propulsion system. The partners aim to start offering the conversion package after securing a supplemental type certificate for the modification in 2027.

The combination of a turbine engine and an electric motor generates 800 kilowatts of shaft horsepower. The companies say the hybrid-electric Thrush will make crop-spraying operations more environmentally sustainable and cost-effective. 

According to Wright Electric CEO Jeff Wright, it will be particularly effective operating in hot temperatures and at high altitudes where existing aircraft can’t carry a full payload. “The extra power from the electric propulsion unit provides additional power during takeoff,” he told AIN.

U.S.-based Wright and its European partner Axter are also using the project to advance the development of its planned two-megawatt electric propulsion system for regional airliners. It has now achieved a 1.2-megawatt peak output and a 1.1-megawatt continuous output with the compact unit, which is expected to deliver an exceptional power density of 10 kW/kg. The flight tests are using sub-components such as the 1,000 wh/kg batteries that Wright announced in October.

Ampaire Flies Hybrid-electric Airplane into Silicon Valley

Ampaire flew its hybrid-electric technology demonstrator, the Electric EEL, into Palo Alto airport on the morning of November 10, marking the first time that a hybrid aircraft has landed at the airport. Company CEO Kevin Noertker flew the airplane to Palo Alto to meet with investors in Silicon Valley. 

The Electric EEL is a converted Cessna 337 Skymaster equipped with Ampaire’s hybrid-electric powertrain. Ampaire has been developing hybrid aircraft at a hangar in Camarillo, California, and recently flew the Electric EEL across Canada into Alaska. The company is working to secure a supplemental type certificate (STC) to convert existing aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan and the Twin Otter to hybrid powertrains. 

Ampaire's Electric EEL technology demonstrator
Ampaire's Electric EEL hybrid-electric technology demonstrator aircraft. (Image: Ampaire)

MineToo Becomes Latest Customer For Moya Aero eVTOLs

Brazilian "civil social organization" MineToo this week signed a letter of intent to purchase 50 of Moya Aero's in-development autonomous eVTOL vehicle. MineToo describes itself as a mobility provider involved in the agri-business sector but has yet to say exactly how it plans to deploy the high-capacity all-electric drone, which is expected to enter service in 2026.

Moya Aero has signed several provisional sales agreements with other customers in recent months. It is preparing to start flight testing a 70 percent-scale technology demonstrator.

Anra Launches Vertiport Management System 

Anra Technologies introduced its Vertiport Management System (VMS) to support new VTOL aircraft operations. The U.S. company says the web-based software platform can be adapted for multiple aircraft types and will support flights at vertiports and other locations used for urban air mobility (UAM) services.

The company developed the technology to support increasing levels of autonomy in flight operations by piloted eVTOL aircraft and uncrewed drones. The system exchanges real-time data between the aircraft and all the services needed to support arrivals and departures.

According to Anra, the VMS is available for immediate use by organizations developing UAM concepts of operation, urban planning, airspace management systems, and vertiports. The company said the system can integrate with existing air traffic management networks and align with the guidance given in NASA’s Vertiport Automation, Software Architecture, and Requirements report.

The platform offers real-time vertiport resource status, flight reservation and clearance requests, flight status, live telemetry for monitoring aircraft data, micro weather services, and aircraft surveillance.

Anra Technologies has developed a Vertiport Management System
Anra Technologies has developed a Vertiport Management System to support eVTOL aircraft operations. (Image: Anra)

Skyportz and Architects Unveil Modular Vertiport Concept

Australian advanced air mobility infrastructure group Skyportz unveiled a modular vertiports concept at this week’s Dubai Airshow. The design, which the company describes as a "vertistop," has been developed in partnership with Contreras Earl Architecture and Arup.

The new concept is part of a portfolio of options offered by Melbourne-based Skyportz, which also include large public vertiports, smaller waterfront sites, and the ultra-compact “Vertiport in a Box” for private use. It sees the vertistop design as suitable for property developers wanting to accommodate eVTOL aircraft at existing sites.

“It could be placed on a rooftop, in a car park, or anywhere there is a space with a minimum of 30 by 30 meters,” Skyportz CEO Clem Newton-Brown explained. “By keeping the footprint tight and the passenger-handling facilities underneath the pad, we can provide a similar customer experience to our larger vertiports.”

Skyportz developed the vertistop concept with Contreras Earl Architecture and Arup.
Skyportz developed the vertistop concept with Contreras Earl Architecture and Arup. (Image: Skyportz)

Spanish Regional Airline Will Buy Electric Propulsion Conversion Kits

Spanish regional airline Air Nostrum has committed to buying 10 electric propulsion retrofit kits from Dovetail Electric Aviation. The companies announced the agreement on November 15 at the Dubai Airshow but have yet to specify which aircraft will be converted to either battery- or hydrogen-electric power.

In December 2022, Air Nostrum and another Spanish carrier, Volotea, acquired a minority stake in Dovetail’s parent company, Dante Aeronautical, which is working to market electric propulsion conversions of existing turboprop aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan, the DHC Twin Otter, the Beechcraft King Air, and the Casa C212. Air Nostrum is part of the Iberia group and its current fleet includes the CRJ family of regional jets and the ATR72 twin turboprop.

Australia-based Dovetail will now work with Air Nostrum to define the optimum scheduled routes for which electric aircraft could be deployed. The company is aiming to gain a supplemental type certificate for a converted battery-electric aircraft in late 2025 or early 2026 and will develop hydrogen-electric kits in the longer term.

Spain-based Dante was founded in 2018 with an initial business model based on developing a hybrid-electric 19-seat regional airliner called the DAX-19. It has since pushed back the start of this project to 2029, with a goal of achieving type certification in 2033.

Air Nostrum backs Dovetail's electric propulsion plans.
Spanish airlines Air Nostrum and Volotea are backing Dovetail's plans for converting aircraft to electric propulsion. (Image: Dovetail Electric Aviation)