On 21st September 2021, aircraft company Airbus unveiled a new eVTOL (vertical take-off and landing) passenger drone known as the CityAirbus NextGen. The passenger drone is an all-electric four-seater drone that can be flown autonomously. Airbus has been developing passenger drone technology for several years. With the CityAirbus, the company has made a giant leap.
The CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL Drone
The CityAirbus NextGen looks straight out of a science-fictional catalog. It features a main wing and another V-shaped tail wing for stability. One of the hallmarks of the drone, as mentioned in the launch event, is its low acoustic signature. The passenger drone’s decibel level while cruising is 65 dB which is approximately 15-20% less than traditional helicopters. The drone is equipped with eight powerful 100 kW electric motors and eight propellers to generate lift.
Airbus has tested over a hundred flights of older sub-scale models of the passenger drone. The full-scale model has a range of 80 km with a top speed of 120 km/h. The increase in range is due to its innovative design and lightweight components. The drone is powered by a 110 kWh battery.
Another interesting facet of the CityAirbus is the design. There is no moving part while transitioning from vertical take-off to forward flight. This helps in reducing complexity and chances of failure. Airbus has capitalized on smaller propellers, better battery technology, carbon fiber body, and other similar areas to increase cost-effectiveness, service life, and customer experience.
Certification and Expected Flight
The company stated, “The CityAirbus NextGen meets the highest certification standards (EASA SC-VTOL Enhanced Category). Airbus is benefitting from years of dedicated research, innovation, two electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) demonstrators, and development on sound technology across its portfolio of products, as well as decades of experience in certifying aircraft. Furthermore, Airbus has used extensive subscale flight testing and wind tunnel campaigns and has leveraged its computing and modeling power.”
However, the actual prototype is no more than two years away from its first flight, Airbus added. CityAirbus is scheduled to start testing in 2023 and be certified by 2025. Therefore, it is safe to say that the UAV is still in its nascent stages. Either way passenger drones are at least a decade away from full-scale integration into our mobility chains. You can read about our take on when passenger drones are expected to take off here. As a concept, the CityAirbus is promising, futuristic, and truly magnificent. As far as regulations are concerned it seems to meet a high standard set by the EASA, which does give us hope for a speedy certification process.