Airbus flying electric taxi is on track for flight tests in 2018

City Airbus Project multi-passenger, self-piloted electric vertical take-off and landing (flying electric taxi) is on track for maiden flight in 2018.

London, Airbus Helicopters has recently completed the first full-scale testing for the propeller-and-duct system of the CityAirbus demonstrator – a multi-passenger, self-piloted electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle designed for urban air mobility. During this successful testing phase, the CityAirbus team thoroughly checked the individual performance of the system, powered by Siemens electrical propulsion units.

They will operate the craft along fixed, predetermined routes, with top air speeds of around 80 mph.

CityAirbus is a battery-powered air vehicle able to vertically take off and land. It is designed to carry up to four passengers over congested megacities to important destinations such as airports or train stations in a fast, affordable and environmentally friendly way. The innovative four-ducted propeller configuration significantly contributes to safety and low acoustic footprint.

“We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator” says Marius Bebesel, CityAirbus chief engineer.

Tests of the fully integrated drivetrain, with 8 propellers and 8 specially designed Siemens SP200D (100kW operating power, direct-drive) drivetrains with exceptional torque to weight ratio are expected shortly.

The full-scale demonstrator will be tested on ground initially. In the first half of the coming year the development team expects to reach the “power on” milestone, meaning that all motors and electric systems will be switched on for the first time. The first flight is scheduled for the end of 2018. In the beginning, the test aircraft will be remotely piloted, later on a test pilot will be on board.

CityAirbus will be designed to carry up to four passengers on fixed routes with a cruising speed of 120 km/h. It will be initially operated by a pilot to ease certification and public acceptance, paving the way to future fully-autonomous operations.

7 thoughts on “Airbus flying electric taxi is on track for flight tests in 2018”

  1. So… let me see.

    unspecified: No. Passengers
    unspecified: Loiter power
    unspecified: Nominal Range
    unspecified: Max TKO Mass
    unspecified: Recharge or B. Swap?
    unspecified: TKO/Landing pad rating
    unspecified: Emergency recovery/landing tech
    unspecified: FAA Cert %done
    unspecified: Battery or Hybrid?
    unspecified: Quadrarotor over helicopter advantages?
    unspecified: Delivered price?
    unspecified: Per hour maintenance?
    unspecified: Birdproofing?
    unspecified: Random pad object suck-up durability?

    Dunno, goats. To me this continues to sound like a wishcopter. While we might guess at some things (the 8 rotors are very likely counter-rotating), 800 kW of input energy is going to take 800 kWh/h of battery juice. Oh… probably somewhat less in service – only at MAX TKO mass, and at max forward velocity will even 80% of 800 kW be used up. o

    Did calculations, based on 4 rotors, 8 passengers (incl. pilot), 2 m diameter rotors, 1,500 kg empty mass, 25 minute in-air duration, 1800 RPM rotors, 175 m/s rotor edge speed (50% Mach 1), 14 degree rotor angle, 2,300 max TKO mass, 900 kg battery (41%), …

    And guess what? Yep… 775,000 W of propulsion power input!!! (It sends chills up-and-down my back when I’m within even 25% of a posted number, from just my physics-based series of best-guess calculations.) It would also take only 445,000 W to hover with 1 passenger, otherwise empty.

    Its that unspecified list that bugs me. Significantly. There is a LOT to accomplish in order to “test in 2018”, goats. I figured “8 passengers” … doesn’t that (with pilot) sound somewhat reasonable for what looks like an aircraft with a 14′ by 18′ footprint? Such air taxis ought to at least carry a large SUV’s worth of joyriders.

    Not stating the Lioter power, the nominal range, the TKO mass … is just leaving the details for later. Many here might be tempted to rebut: “but goat, surely an experienced team of these engineers has ALL that figured out. Why are you bothering your goatish mind about it?” … uh, hummm… but without those numbers, I can’t tell whether they’re marketing “banapple gas” or not. (Its in a song, look it up.)

    Similarly about the recharge-versus-swap concept. I can’t see this thing having less than 320 kWh of battery pack. That’s only 25 minutes of loiter-and-drive time. And if it is 320 kWh in the B-pack, then it almost necessarily requires endpoint battery swapping tech so as to be practical. You are not going to charge it in 5 minutes, folks. 300 × 60 ÷ 5 = 3.6 MW charge rate. Whew! And the batteries would likely blow up from heat overload.

    Emergency failure-recovery and perhaps even passive landing tech? “Autorotor” sounds good. Would it work? How about if you’re only 250 feet above pavement? Parachutes for the whole contraption? Parachutes able to deploy in a few milliseconds and stall out 2,300 kg of falling stuff?

    And what exactly are the ADVANTAGES (besides looking all trendy, posh and hip) for qudracopters over 1 rotor helis? CLEARLY not the footprint! Clearly not the noise. Clearly not the well-known, bog-standard flight tech. Clearly not ease-of-certification. Clearly not even energy efficiency. What?

    So. Its going to be a battery system, quadrarotor, Offer FAA certifiable failure recovery stuff, its going to be hardened against pidgeons, gulls, sparrows and crows. Its going to be hardened against randomly sucking in rocks, wood, cardboard, plastic coffee cups, other common detritus. (Right?) All that, with end-point battery swap infrastructure, with heliports on every available skyscraper (say), with them on car parking lots, on metro bus terminals, all over the place. How much per unit, the mature price? Seriously… HOW MUCH?

    I wouldn’t figure less than $5,000,000 a copy. Clearly no less intrinsically than a good commercial helicopter. Profit margins, manufacturing plants, research budgets, marketing budgets. Fat cat salaries, regulator payola, FAA certification bûllsnot. Helis cost what helis cost not because they’re intrinsically all that expensive. But from all the other crâhp. And say that FAA certs them at 1,500 hours flight-between-recerts. And 6,000 total hours before overhaul.

    The 1500 hrs will accumulate EASILY in 1 year of “air taxi” service. 1500 ÷ 300 days = 5 hr/day of flight time. If anything that’s WAY LOW. You’d expect that 5 hours = 3 hours commute + 2 hours non-commute + 20% ( rest of day = 3.8 hr ) = 9 hr a day buzzing around. Maybe more! They ought to be super-attractive to the modern-day jet-setter.

    Well over 3,000 hr a year. 2 recertifications. A complete overhaul every 2 years. From what I’ve learned, I know that “complete overhauls” can be expensive. Like 10% to 20% of the acquisition cost of an aircraft. COMMERCIAL costs, folks, commercial costs.

    When then brings one of Goat’s famous napkin calculations… (too complex to list… but) 6% mortgage, 2,500 flyable hours a year, 4 pilots at $175,000 each to cover all-days, all-reasonable-hours flights. Mucho overhead for heliports, for swap-battery-charging service. 5% of cost/year for ongoing service. Maybe should be 10%. $1,275/hr is the COST of flying these birds about, for a full year, based on 10 yaer mortgage. 50% profit margin.

    Not so bad, divided by 6! Only $200 an hour. And you’re only going to be in the bird for 15–20 minutes at a time.

    Just cyphering.

    • “unspecified: No. Passengers” It says right on the picture up to 4 passengers. Personally, I think the ehang 184 is a better concept than this. Ride sharing is for cheapskates. The ehang seems like a better business model, transports only one person at a time. This Airbus contraption is going to be an environmental disaster if like most cars it has an average occupancy of between 1 and 2. That electricity comes from somewhere you know.

  2. It’s gonna have eight 100kW motors? That means it will need at least a megawatt of power assume the motors are efficient??

    • Looks like it. What a genius concept, isn’t it? Why use less than 100kW (probably less than 20kW on average) when you can waste 800kW?

    • It has sufficient battery power for 4 motors, so one might suspect half the motors are redundant. This would also reduce safety issues since a sudden motor failure would flip the vehicle without a backup motor.

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