The development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft has piqued the interest of many prominent airlines in recent years. Carriers have invested millions of dollars into projects promising to deliver flying taxis capable of point-to-point urban travel. While eVTOL flying taxi concepts seem closer to similar flying car fantasies, Airbus is inching closer to making that fantasy a reality.
Airbus is partnering with Japanese helicopter operator Hiratagakuen to develop advanced air mobility services in the Kansai region of Japan, the county’s second most populated metropolitan area after the Greater Tokyo Area. The European aircraft manufacturer is developing the CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL prototype. While the experimental aircraft itself isn’t yet ready, Airbus wants to ensure that the communications and navigation technologies required for eVTOL operations are viable. Later this year, Hiratagakuen will conduct an eVTOL demonstration flight with an Airbus H135 helicopter.
Mitsuhiro Hirata, Vice President, Aviation Operation Division of Hiratagakuen, said:
“We are very pleased to conduct a demonstration flight in the Osaka-Kansai region with Airbus for the future of mobility, using the latest H135 helicopter. We have been operating Airbus helicopters for many years and highly appreciate their high safety, performance, operational reliability and proven after-sales support. We are aware that a revolution in air transportation is now approaching in the Osaka area, and we expect CityAirbus NextGen to play a central role in this revolution.”
It should be noted that an H135 is far more capable than the CityAirbus NextGen. For example, the helicopter has 395 miles of range compared to the eVTOL’s 50-mile range. The difference shouldn’t matter as the demonstration flight is meant to test systems. The ultimate goal is to have eVTOLs provide sustainable short-range air travel in a semi-autonomous fashion. The allure of urban flights with lower fuel costs and without the need for a highly-skilled pilot is simply irresistible to investors, airlines and aircraft manufacturers.