A New eVTOL Can Fly 200 MPH With the Lightest Electric Powertrain in the World

Even Virgin Galactic wants one.
Christopher McFadden

The UK-based company Bristow has recently announced that it intends to team up with a smaller British company, Vertical Aerospace. Bristow, in case you're unaware, is a company that specializes in the design of vertical flight craft, like helicopters for offshore oil and gas transportation and search and rescue.

This collaboration is for both companies to develop a piloted, fully electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The partnership is to be operated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), whereby the two firms will cooperate on the certification, operational planning, and potential purchase of up to 50 eVTOL aircraft.

"Our MOU with Vertical allows us to build upon our leadership position in the vertical transportation market for the past 70+ years and now sets the stage for the disruptive advantages of the VA-X4 with its zero carbon emissions and low operating costs for passenger transport. Our expansion into these new and existing geographic markets with sustainable, innovative, and efficient vertical lift and aerial transport services will offer passengers superior regional air mobility solutions," said Bristow President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Bradshaw in a press statement.

"As the global leader in vertical lift, Bristow's operational expertise and efficiency, supported by the trust and confidence of our customers, can safely bring eVTOL aircraft into the market," he added.

"Bristow's global expertise and reach mean it is the perfect partner for Vertical as we seek to pioneer the transition to zero emissions flight. We look forward to working with Bristow and accelerating the commercial operation of eVTOLs," said Stephen Fitzpatrick, Founder, and CEO of Vertical Aerospace.

One part of the plan is for Bristow and Vertical Aerospace to look for ways to exploit the emerging commercial taxi flight market in various locations around the world.

This news is very exciting for both companies, but especially for Vertical Aerospace who was only founded back in 2016. Over the past five years, Vertical has focused on building the most experienced and senior team in the eVTOL industry. To date, this team has over 1,200 combined years of experience and has certified and supported over 30 different civil and military aircraft and propulsion systems.

Vertical Aerospace will provide the hardware, Bristow the regulatory compliance experience

Vertical Aerospace has already collected somewhere in the region of 1000 orders for their VA-X4 VTOL craft. This is a piloted electric, low emission eVTOL craft that can carry up to four passengers and a pilot. This air taxi is capable of flying at speeds of 200 mph (174 knots) and has a range of more than 100 miles (160 km).

Being all-electric, it is near-silent during flight, offers a low-carbon solution to flying, and has a relatively low cost per passenger mile.

Vertical Aerospace's VA-X4 also makes use of the latest in advanced avionics - some of which are used to control the world's only supersonic VTOL aircraft, the F-35 fighter. Such sophisticated control systems enable the eVTOL tax to fly with some high level of automation and reduced pilot workload.

Not only that, but the air taxi also has the world's lightest and safest electrical powertrain going. Developed in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, the system is also powered by a proprietary battery system is also designed to reduce the overall weight without minimizing efficiency.

Bristow has already pre-ordered around 25 VA-X4s and also has the option to procure another 25 in the future. They are now working with Vertical Aerospace on the following areas: regulatory and airspace; demand, fleet size, spare parts, and infrastructure; potential customers; and public acceptance and environmental requirements.

Among the interested parties outside of the agreement, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and aircraft lessor Avolon Holdings have also placed pre-orders for the aircraft.

All this despite the VA-X4 not yet taking to the air. It is hoped that its first test flight will be completed without hiccup sometime towards the end of 2021. If everything goes well, the air taxi will be allowed for commercial operation no earlier than 2024.

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