Vertical Aerospace appears to be preparing to fly, or at least unveil publicly, the first full-scale prototype of its planned eVTOL aircraft. On August 10, the UK startup briefly unveiled an animated presentation of what appears to be the fixed-wing aircraft it discussed with media and prospective investors when it completed the preliminary design review in early January.
The fixed-wing design seen on social media and at the company’s website appears to have four propellers that look to be in a tilt-wing configuration. To the rear of the fuselage, there seems to be a v-shaped tail, but no other details of the design can be easily discerned.
Over the past three months, Vertical Aerospace has been strengthening its technical team with three senior appointments. In late May, former Rolls-Royce chief engineer Tim Williams joined the Bristol-based company in the same position. Then in June Dean Moore joined from Boeing as lead flight test engineer, and in July former Jet Aviation and Gulfstream executive Eric Samson was appointed as head of engineering.
In January, Vertical Aerospace COO Michael Cervenka (who has since been made CEO) confirmed that the new eVTOL design would make a significant departure from the multi-rotor Seraph technology demonstrator that had already been extensively flown at a test site in north Wales. He indicated that the new design could be ready to begin flight testing in the second half of 2020. The as-yet-unnamed eVTOL aircraft is expected to deliver a range of almost 100 miles and a cruise speed of around 150 mph.
This week, Vertical Aerospace signed an agreement under which Honeywell will supply flight deck technology for the new eVTOL aircraft, building on a relationship that saw the U.S. company to supply a fly-by-wire system and flight control software for the Seraph technology demonstrator. For the new prototype, Honeywell will also provide multitouch displays, avionics system controls, avionics software and the vehicle operating system.
“One of the most important outcomes of this program will be the successful demonstration of simplified vehicle operations, which essentially is about making the aircraft more intuitive and flattening the learning curve to safely fly them,” commented Stephane Fymat, vice president and general manager, UAS/UAM, Honeywell Aerospace.
Also back in January, Vertical Aerospace said that it was seeking fresh sources of investment. Speaking more than two months ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, Cervenka told FutureFlight that the company expects to spend more than $100 million to achieve type certification by late 2023 or early 2024.