Startup Says Its Personal eVTOL Is The One For Supercar Customers
MESA, Arizona–If you can afford a supercar, why not buy One, a vehicle that can fly–truly fly?
That is the pitch behind Air’s 155-mph-top-speed two-seater named One, a personal electrical vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that the startup is selling as a sporty daily commuter vehicle for people with a pilot’s license.
The Israeli company, which plans to move its headquarters to the U.S. in the second half of 2023, applied in January to start the process of obtaining a type certificate with the FAA for its winged multicopter, said Chen Rosen, Air’s chief technology officer, on Jan. 25 at the Vertical Flight Society’s eVTOL Symposium.
While other upstarts are attempting to launch personal eVTOLs to market under the FAA’s light-sport aircraft category—a classification that allows manufacturers to bypass the regulator’s safety certification review—Air sees value in obtaining the FAA’s stamp of approval.
“Type certification is validation of the safety of the aircraft, which we think is something that is important in order for public acceptance,” Rosen says.
Yet, instead of attempting to obtain a certificate for commercial service–as larger eVTOL air taxis such as Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation are–Air is focused on approval for its One aircraft for personal use. “In terms of safety and reliability, the aircraft has to be the rate of 10 to the minus seven, and not 10 to the minus nine [as with commercial aircraft], in terms of critical failure probability,” Rosen says.
The company’s One eVTOL has eight electric motors, driving eight rotors, and no other moving parts, he says.
“This aircraft is very, very distributed. We have four completely separate power systems and four batteries. Each battery is connected to two motors,” Rosen says. “You can lose one and you fly normally … And at the end of the day there’s also the ballistic parachute. But the aircraft is being certified without taking credit for the parachute.”
Air contends that its multirotor configuration is easier and safer to fly than a tiltrotor.
“Transitioning to cruising in this aircraft is simpler than in other more complex eVTOL that we usually see as air taxis,” Rosen says. “We actually don’t have any moving components in this aircraft other than the spinning motors. We don’t have any control surfaces. We don’t tilt any motors. We even have fixed pitch propellers. It’s very simple.”
A full-scale prototype of Air’s One aircraft demonstrated transition from hover to wing-borne flight in December.
By transitioning to partially wing-borne flight, the company says it is able to get more range out of its multicopter. That allows the aircraft to have a cruise speed of 100 mph, a range of about 100 mi. and a payload capacity of 550 lb.
“We think of our product more like a sports car,” says Rani Plaut, CEO and co-founder. “Many users will use it daily for commute, while others will use it mainly on weekends for leisure and fun.”
The company also wants its eVTOL to have the look and feel of a supercar.
“Today, if you buy a very large aircraft, you’ve probably paid the price that you’ll pay for a Ferrari,” Rosen says. “But you probably in this Ferrari-priced aircraft get the space, comfort and visual appeal that you wouldn’t accept even in the cheapest car. So, we need to fix that.”
The One comes with racing-style seats, a round glass canopy and bottom windshield for seeing beneath the aircraft.
The One aircraft can be recharged from 0% to 100% within an hour and from 20% to 80% within 30 min. the startup says. The company says the eVTOL can be stored in most garages and driveways, and hauled by trailer. Conceptual images of the vehicle show its wings folded back.
Air has from its inception planned to eventually relocate and produce its aircraft in the U.S., Plaut says. It has yet to choose its destination, but is negotiating with partners, he says.
The company has about 300 preorders from customers. About half of customers are people with a pilot’s license. The other half are those who have spent time flying in general aviation aircraft but have yet to get a license, Rosen says.
Air is planning first deliveries of its aircraft by 2024.