The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

FutureFlight Weekly News Roundup

Falcon Aviation Teams with AutoFlight for eVTOL Services in the Middle East and Africa

Falcon Aviation Services, a helicopter and fixed-wing charter operator in the UAE, has partnered with AutoFlight to come up with a strategy for advanced air mobility (AAM) in the Middle East and Africa. Autoflight is a Chinese start-up developing an autonomous eVTOL aircraft for commercial air taxi, cargo, and firefighting applications, as well as sightseeing flights for tourists. The company claims to have set the record for the longest flight of an eVTOL aircraft with its fourth-generation prototype earlier this year. 

Abu Dhabi-based Falcon Aviation also plans to operate Archer’s Midnight eVTOL aircraft in Dubai, and last year the company partnered with Eve Air Mobility to launch eVTOL air taxi services from the Atlantis luxury resort in the city. Falcon Aviation has also expressed interest in developing and operating vertiports.

Joby Wins Government Grant To Support California Expansion

The state of California has awarded Joby Aviation a $9.8 million CalCompetes grant to support the company’s expansion in the Golden State. Joby said the funding will support a “significant expansion” of its flight testing and pilot production facilities in the city of Marina and help to create 690 full-time jobs across its California locations by 2027. 

In addition to its Marina facilities, Joby has offices in Santa Cruz and San Carlos, as well as in Washington, D.C., and Munich. The company is also building a scaled manufacturing plant in Dayton, Ohio, where it plans to mass-produce its five-seat eVTOL aircraft in 2025. 

Joby has manufactured early examples of its eVTOL aircraft in Marina, California.
Joby has manufactured early examples of its eVTOL aircraft in Marina, California. (Image: Joby Aviation)

Honeywell Advanced Air Mobility Unit Grows into $10 Billion Business

Honeywell’s advanced air mobility unit has generated more than $10 billion in business, the company said last week at the Dubai Airshow. The figure represents contract values based on a forecast number of AAM vehicles the company expects various manufacturers will build.

Since its establishment a little more than three years ago, Honeywell’s AAM unit has secured business with companies including Archer Aviation, Lilium, Pipistrel, and Vertical Aerospace. Honeywell offers a range of products in the AAM space, including avionics, actuation systems, and sensors such as the RDR-84K radar and AH2000 attitude heading reference systems.

USAF Issues Contract for Phenix’s Ultra 2XL VTOL Aircraft

The U.S. Air Force has signed a Phase II agile manufacturing contract for work on the Ultra 2XL VTOL aircraft being developed by Phenix Solutions. Under the agreement announced on November 22, the Oregon-based company will work with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate to accelerate the development of the remotely piloted vehicle, which will feature coaxial rotors that eliminate the need for a tail rotor. 

Built to fit within a standard 20-foot shipping container, the Phenix Ultra 2XL is intended to be launched by ground troops in less than 15 minutes. It should be capable of beyond-visual-line-of-sight operation and has a 2,000-pound payload capacity and an operational range of 200 miles. Phenix plans to market the aircraft for both civil and defense applications once FAA certification is achieved,

The Phase II contract will focus on factors such as streamlined procurement, accounting, and production processes. Phenix intends to build a high-tech factory for the Ultra 2XL, which will be powered by a Rolls-Royce RR300 turboshaft engine.

Phenix's Ultra 2XL VTOL aircraft will be powered by the Rolls-Royce 300 turboshaft.
Phenix's Ultra 2XL VTOL aircraft will be powered by the Rolls-Royce 300 turboshaft. (Image: Phenix Solutions)

UK Civil Aviation Authority Launches Hydrogen Fuel Project

The UK Civil Aviation Authority is encouraging companies and other organizations to accelerate work on making hydrogen fuel a practical option for the air transport industry. Through the Hydrogen Challenge launched this week, the agency is releasing £940,000 ($1.2 million) in funding work that will focus on safety and the pathway to certification, both of which are factors the CAA says are not yet adequately understood.

The CAA will set up a regulatory sandbox to provide a collaborative platform for ensuring that regulations are fit for the purpose. It is about to open up applications to participate in the sandbox as part of the overall challenge that will run through the end of February 2025.

Bellwether Selects Propulsion, Connectivity Partners for Personal eVTOL

Bellwether Industries has partnered with Schubeler on the development of electric propulsion systems for its Volar line of personal eVTOL aircraft, and it has selected Viasat to provide airborne connectivity for the vehicles, the company announced last week during the Dubai Airshow. 

Schubeler, which provides off-the-shelf electric ducted fans and custom propulsion systems, supported Bellwether’s development of its early-generation Antelope prototype and will collaborate on the launch of the Oryx model now undergoing testing in Dubai.

Cormorant Seaplanes Moves Base to Dutch Airport

Cormorant Seaplanes, the Dutch start-up working on plans for an amphibious aircraft made largely from wood, is moving its headquarters to Teuge International Airport in the Netherlands. By year-end, the company will relocate almost 50 miles to the east of its current base in the Amsterdam suburb of Hilversum to continue its project in a hangar that is part of the new E-Deck technology park recently established at the airport. This complex also includes the new E-Flight Academy, which trains pilots using Pipistrel’s Velis Electro aircraft, and an E-Campus with shared research facilities.

The planned hybrid-electric seaplane is expected to have a range of up to 810 kilometers (506 miles), with a cruise speed of up to 350 km/h. It would seat up to seven passengers and a pilot, and be certified under existing EASA CS23 Level III rules.

The company’s engineering team is determining how much of the airframe and wings might be made from wood and how practical it might be for series production. It believes that the biodegradable qualities of wood mean that it will have a lower end-of-service-life environmental impact and also that the material has inherently superior fatigue-resistant qualities.

Cormorant Seaplane
Cormorant Seaplanes is developing an amphibious aircraft largely made from wood. (Image: Cormorant)

VoltAero Introduces Mobile Charger for Electric Aircraft

At last week’s Dubai Airshow, VoltAero unveiled a universal mobile charging unit that it says will be suitable for its family of Cassio hybrid-electric aircraft as well as other electric aircraft, including eVTOL models. The French start-up said the unit will take around 30 minutes to fully recharge the batteries on its four-passenger Cassio 330 aircraft, using a combination of supercapacitors and batteries for a power output of 100 kilowatts. 

According to VoltAero, the charger can be programmed to be used autonomously when deployed to a specific location to provide the power required for each particular type of aircraft. At the Dubai event, the company also displayed the four- and six-cylinder internal combustion engines that Kawasaki has developed for the three Cassio aircraft, which will include the larger 480 and 660 models, seating up to 10 passengers. The company expects the aircraft to also be able to operate using hydrogen fuel at a later date.