This New Air Taxi Claims to Have the World's Lightest Electric Powertrain

The new aircraft 100 times quieter than a helicopter.
Loukia Papadopoulos

UK-based Bristow, Vertical Aerospace, and Rolls Royce are all collaborating on a piloted, fully electric VTOL aircraft. The new vehicle, according to its site, will have speeds over 200 mph (321 km/h), be near silent when in flight, and produce zero emissions while offering a low cost per passenger mile.

It's called the VA-X4 and it uses advanced avionics, based on the same flight control technologies as the F-35. Vertical Aerospace says the aircraft is 100 times quieter than a comparable helicopter, reaching 45 dB at cruise and 60 dB at hover.

While the company doesn't elaborate on this piece of info, for reference, according to the Helicopter Association International (HAI), the sound of a helicopter flying at 500 feet is about 87 decibels. And when at 1,000 feet, the sound drops to 78 decibels. 

In the dB scale, each increase and decrease is roughly a twofold increase in perceived loudness. So, 70 dB would roughly be half as loud as 80 dB. With this logic, if we compare 45 dB with 75 dB (rounding 78 down to 75 for convenience) we can say 75 dB is 8 times louder than 45 dB, because 23 equals 8. The company might be looking at the power ratio between them rather than the amplitude ratio though. Or we might be looking at different notations of decibels perhaps. 

We already featured the CityAirbus, a quiet electric VTOL that is designed to keep noise levels below 65 dB during flight, and under 70 dB while landing. The vehicle at the time of its release was revolutionary in terms of noise level and now it seems the VA-X4 has got it beat.

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This is one of just many advanced Rolls Royce innovations. The firm is working on the world's fastest all-electric plane and on a nuclear reactor for mining the Moon and Mars. For the VA-X4, the firm is collaborating with Vertical Aerospace to produce the world’s lightest and safest electric powertrain.

Inceptive Mind reports that American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Avolon Holdings have already placed pre-orders for the VA-X4 and that the aircraft's first test flight is set for the end of this year. If all goes to plan, the air taxi will be available for commercial operations in 2024.

The aircraft is capable of carrying four passengers and a pilot.

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