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Archer Receives $10M Pre-Delivery Payment from United Airlines for 100 eVTOLs, Shares Q2 Financial Results

United Airlines provided a $10 million pre-delivery payment to Archer Aviation for 100 eVTOL aircraft. Archer recently held an earnings call to share financial results from the second quarter of 2022. The team revealed that its production aircraft, Midnight, is expected to begin flight testing next year. (Photo: Archer)

On August 10, Archer Aviation announced that it received a $10 million pre-delivery payment from United Airlines for 100 of Archer’s production aircraft, an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle. The eVTOL developer also held an earnings call to review its financial results from the second quarter of 2022. 

Archer’s co-founder, CEO, and director Adam Goldstein revealed the name of their production aircraft, Midnight, during the earnings call. Archer’s prototype eVTOL, the Maker, has served as a testbed for supporting the development of the Midnight production aircraft that will eventually be certified with the Federal Aviation Administration. Goldstein also shared that Archer completed the Preliminary Design Review of its Midnight eVTOL this past week. The team plans to start flight testing of Midnight in 2023.

Goldstein remarked on the new pre-delivery payment from United, saying, “I am incredibly proud of the entire Archer team as we reach this milestone in our partnership with United Airlines. To receive a cash deposit is validation of Archer’s achievements to date, not only with flight testing and product development, but also a great signal of confidence in our roadmap to commercialization.”

United Airlines has previously supported Archer in the process of developing its eVTOL. Archer and United formed a joint advisory committee in April. The committee supports the development process with recommendations for maintenance and operational concepts. United also entered into a partnership with Archer in early 2021 that included the intent to purchase 200 of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft. 

According to the company’s announcement about the pre-delivery payment from United, Archer has recently finished the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of its production aircraft: “The PDR lays out all aspects of the aircraft’s specifications and manufacturing requirements, necessary pre-conditions for determinations that the design is feasible for regulatory compliance and viable to bring to market.” 

During the PDR, Archer’s team reviewed and froze key design elements of the Midnight eVTOL. Archer now continues to work with the FAA to ensure agreement on the Means of Compliance for Midnight.

Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures, commented, “We believe eVTOLs have the potential to both help achieve carbon-neutral travel and serve as an innovative new tool to change how United customers experience comfort, convenience, and efficiency during their commutes within cities across the globe.” (Photo: Archer)

The Q1 financial results for Archer included GAAP operating expenses of $65.3 million, non-GAAP total operating expenses of $39.6 million, and net loss of $59.2 million.

In comparison, the numbers for Archer’s Q2 included GAAP operating expenses at $80.2M, non-GAAP operating expenses at $50M, and net loss of $71.7M. 

The company expects GAAP total operating expenses for the third quarter to total between $95M and $103M.

During the Q2 earnings call, Adam Goldstein stated that the company is now at an inflection point and is advancing its efforts towards commercialization. “This includes the development and certification of our production aircraft, building out the supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure needed to produce the aircraft and kicking off efforts to prepare for our initial launch markets and routes for commercial operations,” he said.

According to Goldstein, the Maker aircraft allowed the team to validate multiple capabilities of the 12 tilt 6 configuration along with decisions regarding software and flight controls for their eVTOL. The production aircraft, Midnight, was designed for optimal performance in commercial operations. The payload, range, and speed, along with other performance requirements, have been selected specifically to optimize operating economics.

“The vast majority of our 400-plus employees are working day-to-day on the development and certification of Midnight as well supporting go-to-market activities,” said Goldstein.

Archer recently completed the first two phases of the flight test program for the Maker aircraft—hover and critical azimuth. The third phase currently underway includes evaluation of Maker’s system performance at increasing forward speeds, Goldstein said. Archer’s team is on track to perform the first full transition hovered fixed wing flight by the end of 2022.

Archer Aviation recently revealed the name of its production aircraft, Midnight, pictured above. (Photo: Archer)

Archer’s Chief Operating Officer Thomas Muniz explained during the earnings call that Midnight is designed specifically for high throughput urban air mobility transportation. The aircraft is expected to offer a payload greater than 1,000 pounds. Midnight may also be capable of charging in only 10 minutes between flights of roughly 20 miles. 

“We are ramping up our manufacturing and supply chain activities as well as progressing the build of an initial Midnight aircraft that will enter flight tests next year,” Muniz said. “We anticipate parts for the Midnight aircraft will start arriving at our low rate initial production facility later this year.”

Muniz also shared that the team has performed some wind tunnel testing with the Maker aircraft. “We are currently building our final high-fidelity models to launch our final wind-tunnel test campaign in the coming months,” he added.

The post Archer Receives $10M Pre-Delivery Payment from United Airlines for 100 eVTOLs, Shares Q2 Financial Results appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Business and General Aviation Avionics Sales Increased in First Half of 2022, AEA Report Says

The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) published its second quarter 2022 business and general aviation avionics sales report this week. (Photo courtesy of Duncan Aviation)

Global sales of business and general aviation avionics increased by 15.8% to more than $1.3 billion during the first six months of 2022, according to the second quarter report published by the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) this week. Between April and June, based on the avionics suppliers that participate in AEA’s report, sales increased 19.9% to $708 million compared to the same period a year ago.

The latest report published by AEA is the eighth consecutive quarter where sales of business and general avionics equipment has increased. Forward-fit sales of electronics featured on new in-production aircraft represented 54.2% of total sales during the first half of the year, according to the report.

Collins Aerospace, Garmin, Gogo Business Aviation, and Honeywell Aerospace are among the 21 different avionics manufacturers that participated in the second quarter report, a number that AEA notes can change periodically due to mergers and acquisitions or new companies participating.

The report comes following several quarterly earnings calls where executives from most of the companies participating in AEA’s report discussed supply chain issues disrupting the development of some new technologies. Garmin, for example, reported a 13% revenue increase to $205 million for its aviation segment during the second quarter and expects total revenue growth in the segment to increase by 10% this year.

“During the quarter, supply chain constraints eased bringing back orders down from historically high levels, but we have more work to do to meet the strong demand for our products,” Garmin CEO Cliff Pemble said during their second quarter earnings call.

Gogo Business Aviation CEO Oakleigh Thorne also told investors last week that the launch of their 5G in-flight connectivity (IFC) service could be delayed until mid-2023 due to a testing delay that their computer chip supplier Airspan is going through. Canada’s ADS-B airspace mandate has also been delayed by six months because of supply chain constraints, according to their Aug. 2 announcement.

AEA President and CEO Mike Adamson said the avionics sales increase reported for the first six months of the year are encouraging, but also cautioned about “inflationary pressures that could factor into that increase.”

“Companies participating in the market report indicated they had increased their prices nearly 6%, which is substantial, yet below the 8.5% rise in the U.S. annual consumer price index reported in July,” Adamson said in a statement. “The effort to manage and maintain the flow of products by our avionics OEMs dealing with supply constraints and the ever-increasing cost to produce and re-certify their products is extraordinary.”

The post Business and General Aviation Avionics Sales Increased in First Half of 2022, AEA Report Says appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Intelsat and OneWeb Partner on LEO/GEO In-Flight Connectivity

Intelsat is partnering with OneWeb. (Photo, courtesy of Intelsat/OneWeb)

OneWeb and Intelsat have signed a global distribution agreement to offer a multi-orbit in-flight connectivity (IFC) service combining Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellite capacity.  The companies announced the agreement Thursday and expect it to be in service by 2024.

Under the agreement, Intelsat will distribute OneWeb capacity coupled with its service. Intelsat said this will fill gaps in IFC coverage and capacity at airport hubs, across oceans, and over polar routes.

“This level of connectivity will enable airlines to maximize brand affiliation with passengers through all their onboard services – delivering a truly connected end-to-end passenger journey,” said Jeff Sare, Intelsat’s new president Commercial Aviation. “The hybrid service offering further allows the global airline community to plan their suite of next-generation onboard services with confidence – not only ensuring a future-proofed passenger inflight connectivity experience, but also the implementation of a connected airline digitalization strategy.”

Ben Griffin, OneWeb vice president of Mobility Services, called the deal a “watershed moment” for the IFC market and said the partnership delivers the highest value for the lowest risk.

This partnership comes after Intelsat announced a new IFC solution in June, with a new multi-orbit capable, electronically steered array terminal to offer increased flexibility to its airline customers.

OneWeb is in the midst of a deal to combine with operator Eutelsat.

 

This article was first published by Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics International. 

The post Intelsat and OneWeb Partner on LEO/GEO In-Flight Connectivity appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Boeing Can Start Delivering 787 Dreamliners Again

American Airlines released this image of the 787-8 they received from Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)

Boeing can begin delivering 787s again, 14 months after stopping deliveries of the Dreamliner when manufacturing flaws were discovered on several undelivered models last year. American Airlines received the latest 787-8 to join its fleet from Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Wednesday.

Issues with composite skin flatness and small gaps discovered between sections of the fuselage in some undelivered 787s led Boeing to lower the production rate and stop delivering the Dreamliner in May last year. At the time, Boeing had 100 total 787s waiting to be delivered, all of which have been cleared to resume delivery flights now by the FAA.

“This milestone would not be possible without the hard work, dedication and perseverance of so many of you,” Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a message to employees. “Thank you for how you have demonstrated our shared values throughout this process.”

The FAA acknowledged last year that the fuselage composite issues were internally identified by Boeing and disclosed to the FAA. While the rework of the fuselage flaws was occurring over the last year, Boeing lowered the 787 program’s production rate to below five per month.

The company reported 120 total undelivered 787 Dreamliners sitting in inventory during their July 27 second quarter 2022 earnings. Boeing CFO Brian West, speaking during the earnings call, also reported $283 million in “abnormal costs” for rework associated with the 787 program and the company still anticipates incurring up to $2 billion in abnormal costs for the program through the end of 2023.

“These costs are driven by rework and production rates below five per month. It is important to keep in mind that cash margins on the 87 remain positive and are expected to improve significantly over time,” West said during the call. “With over 400 airplanes in backlog, recent orders and commitments announced at Farnborough and additional demand as the commercial market recovers, we see a strong future for the 87 program.”

The post Boeing Can Start Delivering 787 Dreamliners Again appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Former Intel Engineer to Lead Daedalean Launch of US Operations for Autonomous Avionics

Dr. Yemaya Bordain will serve as the president of U.S. operations for Daedalean, the Swiss developer of artificial intelligence software for aircraft systems. (Photo courtesy of Daedalean)

Daedalean, a Switzerland-based developer of artificial intelligence and machine learning software for avionics systems, has launched its first operations outside of Europe with a new office in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Yemaya Bordain will serve as president of Daedalean’s Americas business after spending the last seven years as an aerospace engineer and global sales director at Intel.

The launch of Daedalean’s first American office joins their existing Zurich and Latvia locations. According to emailed statements provided to Avionics International, the Phoenix office will focus on business development activity for U.S.-based partners and customers while manufacturing and engineering activities will continue at their headquarters in Switzerland.

“Daedalean is leading the charge in creating a world where we’ll be keeping up with the Jetsons as we skip over traffic jams in autonomous and situationally-aware aircraft,” Bordain said in a statement. “I am so thrilled to be joining their pioneering team. It is an exciting challenge to play a key role in achieving this future.”

Bordain’s previous experience includes co-architecting the “first Intel-based commercially-available offering in safety-critical avionics,” according to her personal website. She also managed partnerships between Intel and some of the aerospace industry’s largest electronics suppliers including Lockheed-Martin Corporation, Collins Aerospace, Indra Sistemas, and Mercury Systems.

Bordain joins co-founders of Daedalean Luuk van Dijk—left—and Anna Chernova right to lead the U.S. operations of the company. (Photo courtesy of Daedalean)

Her experience at Intel adds to the list of engineers running Daedalean that have worked at some of the largest Silicon Valley-based companies. Dr. Luuk van Dijk, one of the company’s two co-founders, previously worked on senior software engineering projects at Google Zürich and SpaceX. Anna Chernova, the other co-founder and a pilot, also previously worked as a qualitative analyst for Google.

Over the last year, Daedalean has been focused on its ongoing collaboration with Florida-based avionics manufacturer Avidyne to develop the PilotEye cockpit vision system. PilotEye is being developed by the two companies to leverage the use of Daedalean’s neural network to replicate the decision-making, hazard avoidance, and situational awareness skills of a human pilot.

“As far as we know, this will be the world’s first certified system for civil aviation with a non-trivial safety case that has a machine-learned component for AI assistance to a human pilot,” Chernova said, commenting on the opening of their first U.S. office. “It’s more than yet another instrument: it can see and interpret the visual scene beyond human vision and capability.”

The Avidyne-Daedalean PilotEye system onboard a test aircraft (Photo courtesy of Daedalean)

Avidyne submitted a supplemental type certification/technical standard order (STC/TSO) application to the Federal Aviation Administration and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for PilotEye in December last year. So far, while still working on obtaining certification for the system, they have received an Issue Paper for the system from the FAA and a Certification Review Item from EASA.

In May, the FAA’s Aviation Research division jointly with Daedalean published a 137-page technical report “Neural Network Based Runway Landing Guidance for General Aviation Autoland,” outlining how the W-shaped Learning Assurance process can meet FAA intent for certification and development processes, as well as inform future policy.

Outside of their work with Avidyne, Daedalean completed a series of flight tests with Eve earlier this year to evaluate the use of their autonomous flight control software on future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Since its founding in 2016, Daedalean has disclosed $72 million in financing and currently has a team of more than 90 people with expertise in “machine learning and computer vision, aviation-grade software engineering, flight testing, safety assessment, and certification,” according to their website.

The post Former Intel Engineer to Lead Daedalean Launch of US Operations for Autonomous Avionics appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Fototerra Upgrades Embraer EMB-110 Antenna to Improve Airborne Surveillance of Brazilian Coastline

Fototerra is upgrading its special missions Embraer EMB-110 aircraft, pictured here, with Satcom Direct’s Plane Simple Ku-band antenna system. (Photo courtesy of Satcom Direct)

Fototerra, the Texas-based special missions fleet operator, is upgrading the antenna featured on its Embraer EMB-110 aircraft that specialize in flying geographic data capture missions for Brazilian oil and gas companies. The antenna currently featured on the EMB-110 will be replaced with the Satcom Direct (SD) Plane Simple antenna—a Ku-band system first launched on several Gulfstream aircraft models earlier this year—according to an announcement made by the company at the Latin American Business Conference and Exhibition (LABACE) occurring in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this week.

Satcom Direct has partnered with Pro Aero, Brazil’s largest civil aviation certification company, and Jazz Engenharia Aeronáutica, a Brazilian aircraft maintenance provider and re-seller of SD’s technologies. Fototerra’s modification of the EMB-110 will also mark the first installation and operation of the new Plane Simple antenna on a special mission aircraft after its debut on an unnamed Gulfstream operator earlier this year.

Jazz Sales Director, Felipe Nardi, commenting on the upgrade, said Plane Simple will “replace current micro-wave technology which Fototerra uses to monitor the maritime coast on behalf of the oil and gas industry. The existing technology requires Fototerra to stay near the coastline to communicate images effectively. Once we’ve installed the terminal, this limitation will be removed.”

Upon replacing the EMB-110’s existing antenna system, the modification will attach the 12-inch Plane Simple antenna to the top of the twin-turboprop in the center of the aircraft’s fuselage. Separately, a modem, the second of the Plane Simple system’s two line replaceable units (LRUs), will be installed inside the aircraft cabin.

The Plane Simple Ku-band tail mount antenna was confirmed qualified for Ku-band service activation by Intelsat in January. (Photo courtesy of Satcom Direct)

“Most of the antenna systems available for business jets today have four to five LRUs and are variants of systems developed for airliners that have been aligned to business jets,” Satcom Direct President Chris Moore said, during an interview with Avionics International about the new antenna system earlier this year.

Connecting the special missions flights operated by Fototerra’s EMB-110 to Intelsat’s FlexExec Ku-band satellite network will provide enough bandwidth for the aircraft to transmit “hyperspectral images, lidar data, radar data, and infrared, ultraviolet, thermal, and fluorescence techniques” in real-time to Fototerra’s servers and on to their customers as requested.

“We have been waiting for this capability for a long time and are enthusiastic about completing missions with the technology in place,” Gulherme Pinho, CEO of Fototerra, said in a statement commenting on the Plane Simple upgrade.

Jazz Engenharia Aeronáutica, the Brazilian MRO provider, is completing the upgrade of the Plane Simple antenna on the aircraft now and expects to re-deliver the upgraded EMB-110 to Fototerra by the end of next month.

The post Fototerra Upgrades Embraer EMB-110 Antenna to Improve Airborne Surveillance of Brazilian Coastline appeared first on Aviation Today.

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US Air Force Awards eVTOL Pilot Training Requirements Contract to Aptima

Aptima was awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force to evaluate the requirements for eVTOL pilot training. (Photo: BETA Technologies)

This week, it was announced that the U.S. Air Force has awarded a new contract to a company called Aptima. The contract will support development of pilot training specifically for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft operation.

Aptima is a company that engineers solutions to improve individual performance in technology-intensive environments. The team will work with the Air Education and Training Command’s Detachment 62 (Det 62) to determine the requirements for eVTOL pilot proficiencies and training as part of the contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force (USAF). Det 62 supports the AFWERX Agility Prime program, and it will drive certification standards and development of curricula for eVTOL pilots.

In fulfilling the USAF contract, Aptima will work to assess pilot competency requirements, “including how pilots learn and perform on eVTOL platforms that have varying levels of automation,” according to the announcement. Aptima’s Samantha Emerson, project manager for the contract, noted that experienced and novice pilots both possess unique skills. “We’ll assess how these differences affect performance in aircraft with various levels of automation,” Emerson explained. 

“The learnability study will help us not only understand the baseline pilot skills and competencies needed for proficient eVTOL flight, but also the impact of automation on pilot performance,” she added.

Some research referenced by Aptima suggests that pilots with more experience experience greater difficulty in learning to operate aircraft that are highly automated. In comparison, novice pilots are less likely to “overcontrol” the aircraft, and will instead let the automation control the vehicle.

Emerson commented that highly experienced pilots may even have to unlearn certain concepts or skills and go through re-training in order to operate aircraft with higher levels of automation and augmentation.

Aptima has previously developed technologies in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to measure, analyze, and optimize pilot performance. One of the technologies is called PETS, or Performance Evaluation Training System, that collects data from flight simulators and produces objective measurements of performance.

The findings that result from this USAF contract will contribute to Det 62’s efforts to test and evaluate its assumptions regarding eVTOL pilot training. According to Aptima, “The findings could also influence how aircraft manufacturers design platforms in the future as we discover which aspects of flight benefit most from improved automation.”

The post US Air Force Awards eVTOL Pilot Training Requirements Contract to Aptima appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Vertical Aerospace Releases Q2 Financial Results, Plans for Hover Testing

Vertical Aerospace published a letter to shareholders this week reporting the company’s results from the first six months of 2022. Vertical finished building the full-scale VX4 eVTOL prototype which will be used for flight testing soon. (Photo: Vertical Aerospace)

Vertical Aerospace, designer and manufacturer of the VX4 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, provided company updates in a letter to shareholders this week, including plans to perform a series of tethered hover flight tests as soon as the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority grants the company a piloted permit. The tethered hover tests are important for demonstrating the aircraft’s stability during take-off and landing as well as confirming performance of flight control systems and batteries. Vertical’s entry into service of the VX4 is targeted for 2025.

Following a series of taut and loose tethered hover flights, Vertical Aerospace will perform untethered flight tests, including multi-axis maneuvers, at up to 50 feet in altitude. According to the company, these flight tests will “continue to expand the flight envelope, testing stability and control, the flight control system, propeller to propeller interactions, loads, vibrations and system operation during low speed transition.”

The next objective is to demonstrate transitions between hover and wing-borne cruise, at altitudes of 5,000 to 10,000 feet, and at speeds of up to 145kts. Transition flights will validate the vehicle’s aerodynamics, structure, powertrain, and flight control systems.

Vertical’s founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick remarked on the company’s performance in the first half of 2022, noting, “In the last quarter, we have expanded our pre-order book to more than 1,400 and announced new VX4 applications in emergency medical services, cargo and business aviation, with Babcock and FLYINGGROUP.”

The VX4 is a piloted, four-passenger eVTOL aircraft that is expected to have a top speed of 200 mph and a range of 100+ miles. (Photo: Vertical Aerospace)

Vinny Casey, Chief Financial Officer at Vertical, commented in the letter to shareholders: “During the first half of 2022 we invested in the build of the VX4 Prototype, the development of our test and certification activities and in the people, systems and processes to support the company.”

Key takeaways from the company’s financial results are a net operating loss of £39 million for the first six months of 2022, as well as cash and cash equivalents of £158 million, which it expects to cover funding of operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements for the next year or more. This month, Vertical also established an equity subscription line with global financial services group Nomura. This enables the eVTOL developer to issue up to $100 million in new ordinary shares.

Vertical expects net cash outflows for the second half of 2022 used in operating activities to total £40 to £50 million.

In the first half of 2022, Vertical’s achievements included completion of the full-scale VX4 prototype build, along with a series of ground tests. Vertical completed 90% of the build by the end of March. According to the company’s letter to shareholders, the team expects to begin flying in the coming weeks. During the second quarter, Vertical also “secured concurrent validation of the VX4 between EASA and CAA on the same SC-VTOL certification basis.”

The VX4 is a full-scale prototype that will conduct much of its flight testing with a pilot present in the cockpit, according to the Q2 shareholder letter. “Qualifying a vehicle for piloted flight is a much bigger challenge than flying with remote controls. This requires the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to perform a detailed review before signing off our airworthiness and issuing us with a piloted permit to fly,” according to Vertical. The prototype has completed ground-based testing such as vibration tests, lift load tests, and propeller thrust tests in order to confirm that the prototype meets the design specifications.

Other highlights from this year included a strategic partnership with Molicel, a company that will supply high-power cylindrical format cells for the battery pack of Vertical’s VX4. And American Airlines recently agreed to pre-pay for 50 of Vertical’s eVTOL aircraft. The airline entered into a $1 billion agreement with Vertical last year to purchase up to 250 of the VX4 aircraft and an optional 100 additional aircraft. American also made plans to invest $25 million in the eVTOL developer at the time.

Vertical entered into an agreement with Hanwha Aerospace this year to develop electric actuators that will be integrated into the VX4. The actuators will provide tilt and pitch control for the eVTOL’s four forward propellers as well as aerodynamic control surface actuation on the V-tail and wing.

The post Vertical Aerospace Releases Q2 Financial Results, Plans for Hover Testing appeared first on Aviation Today.

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NASA and FAA Administrators Discuss Advanced Air Mobility at White House Summit

The White House summit on advanced air mobility featured discussions about drones and electric air taxis or eVTOLs, like the one pictured above. (Photo courtesy of Joby)

According to Billy Nolen, Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, two companies developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft expect to earn FAA certification of their vehicles as early as 2024. He shared numerous insights about the FAA’s approach to advanced air mobility and ensuring safety for the aviation industry during a keynote presentation at a summit hosted by the White House last week. Nolen added that in addition to supporting certification for eVTOL aircraft, another priority of the FAA is working to enable routine drone operations that can be carried out beyond the line of sight of a visual observer.

Joby Aviation’s team expects to start operations of their eVTOL aircraft in 2024. Joby is pursuing certification of its eVTOL with the FAA, and an announcement last month from the company shared that the eVTOL developer has also applied for certification in the U.K. Joby’s second-quarter earnings call will take place this week on August 11.

Another major eVTOL developer, Archer Aviation, announced in July that it has successfully completed “all of its ‘critical azimuth’ flight tests, marking the completion of the second of three key phases of flight testing,” according to the company. “The purpose of these tests are to validate the crosswind capabilities of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft configuration and flight control systems.”

Archer’s flight test campaign has quickly shifted to focus on expanding forward flight speed towards full transition. The company expects to achieve certification of its aircraft in 2024 and launch operations shortly thereafer.

JoeBen Bevirt, Founder and CEO of Joby Aviation, remarked on the amazing transformative potential of AAM during his presentation. “That potential, the economic benefits of that, the productivity that it brings, the access that it brings are really exciting,” he said.

A panel discussion on the benefits of AAM, featuring Joby’s JoeBen Bevirt, pictured above seated on the left

“There are a number of key pieces that make all of this possible. Electric propulsion is at the core of that,” according to Bevirt. “Electric propulsion gives us the ability to think differently about aircraft design.” This means manufacturing aircraft that are safer, quieter, and less expensive, with next-generation capabilities.

Bevirt commended NASA, the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX/Agility Prime program, and the White House’s OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) for their support of the growing AAM industry. The success of AAM in the U.S., he claimed, is vital for the country to continue playing a leadership role in aviation. 

Senator Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, shared comments on NASA’s commitment to advanced air mobility (AAM). The overarching vision is to support the safe development of new air transportation systems. He poses the questions, “How do we move people and cargo between places previously not served, or underserved? How do we utilize revolutionary new aircraft?”

One area of great potential for AAM is assisting firefighters and first responders in hard-to-reach areas. Climate change means that extreme weather events and wildfires are happening more frequently, explained Nelson. As of Monday, August 1, he noted, there were 53 wildfires currently active in the U.S. “These [AAM] aircraft can be a game-changer for emergency response and rescue operations.”

Unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, can be used to monitor a wildfire’s size and location, enabling a more effective firefighting approach. eVTOL aircraft that can carry passengers can be used for quickly transporting individuals out of a region with an active fire or other natural disaster.

Senator Bill Nelson delivered a keynote presentation about NASA’s commitment to advanced air mobility at the White House summit.

NASA’s research and industry collaboration focuses on four core areas related to AAM. These areas include noise abatement, airspace integration, autonomy, and safety. Nelson mentioned that they invite contributions from industry stakeholders through open forums like the AAM ecosystem working groups. Insights from stakeholders inform NASA not only on what is possible but what is required for the future of AAM.

“Humanity is on the cusp of a new era of aviation,” he said. “This era cannot happen on its own. We must choose to make it so. We have the resources. The question is, together do we have the will? I believe we do.”

Billy Nolen, Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, delivered a keynote presentation during the White House summit, emphasizing the importance of public acceptance with new technologies like electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and with increasingly autonomous aircraft.“If the public is not confident in their safety, then the benefits may never be realized,” he said. 

The FAA continues to work closely with the aviation community to ensure operational safety. For new AAM technologies, Nolen said, “our mission is to constantly advance our outstanding level of safety, without stifling the innovators. We aim to be a gateway, not a hurdle.”

FAA officials are collaborating with NASA, Homeland Security, Defense, and other agencies to support its comprehensive integration strategy for drones and other AAM vehicles. For drones, one of the FAA’s priorities is implementing standard rules for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations. Nolen shared that the agency works closely with the drone community to make routine BVLOS missions scalable and economically viable.

“By 2025, we could have a total of more than 2.6 million commercial and recreational drones flying in our airspace, according to FAA forecasts,” he stated. “It’s critical that we have a standard set of rules for operations beyond visual line of sight. This would enable operations for things like routine package deliveries, infrastructure inspections and agriculture spraying and inspection.”

The FAA has been working with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and multiple other organizations as well as the states of Kansas and North Dakota, as part of an integration program called BEYOND. The program enables the FAA to “learn about and address state and local government concerns about drone operations—concerns related to safety, security, noise, and privacy.”

The agency has also entered into partnerships with more than 20 companies with the goal of advancing complex drone operational capabilities safely, Nolen shared. One of these partnerships is with Xcel Energy; the FAA is supporting inspections of power transmission lines conducted via unmanned aircraft.

In addition to advanced drone technology, electric air taxis, or eVTOLs, are a game changer for the AAM industry, Nolen believes. These aircraft not only promise more efficient personal transportation, but they will also be used for a range of applications such as firefighting, search and rescue operations, and transporting cargo.

“eVTOL technology is on its way,” remarked Nolen. “In fact, two companies expect to earn FAA certification of their vehicles as early as 2024.”

“We’re looking at every aspect of this enterprise—the vehicle itself, the framework for operations, access to the airspace, operator training, infrastructure development, and community engagement,” he said. “In other words, it’s not just about air taxis. It’s also about everything necessary to support air taxi flights.”

“We’re modifying our regulatory approach to enable powered lift operations including the certification of powered-lift vehicles and the pilots who operate them,” shared Nolen. “Longer-term, the agency plans to continue to develop permanent regulations to safely enable powered-lift operations and pilot training and certification.”

One of the challenges considered by the FAA is the integration of increasingly autonomous vehicles. Pilots operating conventional aircraft have to communicate with air traffic controllers, Nolen mentioned. “What if the software that enables an autonomous vehicle to remain aloft also allows it to safely separate itself from other aircraft?” he ponders.

Nolen recently met with multiple aviation officials in government and industry, and he reports that he was encouraged by AAM aircraft manufacturers—who “are moving through their home country’s certification process and now asking their American or U.K. counterpart for validation.”

The FAA is partnered with the National Aviation Authorities Network that includes the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand with the goal of aligning processes for certification and standardizing requirements for these new types of aircraft.

The post NASA and FAA Administrators Discuss Advanced Air Mobility at White House Summit appeared first on Aviation Today.

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American Airlines Invests in Hydrogen-Electric Engine Developer ZeroAvia

American Airlines announced an investment into ZeroAvia as well as its intent to order up to 100 hydrogen-electric engines from ZeroAvia. (Photo: ZeroAvia)

In an Aug. 3 announcement, American Airlines and ZeroAvia shared news of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which American can order up to 100 of ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric engines. The airline is also investing in ZeroAvia’s innovative technology that could play a key role in advancing sustainable aviation, said Derek Kerr, Chief Financial Officer at American, commenting on the announcement. “We are excited to contribute to this industry development and look forward to exploring how these engines can support the future of our airline as we build American Airlines to thrive forever,” Kerr remarked.

ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric powertrain is designed to provide emission-free power for regional jet aircraft. The company’s ZA2000-RJ powertrain model is expected to launch commercially in the late 2020s. ZeroAvia’s team is working towards certain type certifications of its propulsion technology, including a 600kW powertrain designed for entry into service in 2024.

Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, also commented on the announcement, expressing their excitement regarding American’s investment and the airline’s confidence in ZeroAvia’s potential. According to Miftakhov, the company’s primary focus is delivering sustainable travel. “Having support from the world’s largest airline is a strong indication of the progress we’re making on the development of hydrogen-electric, zero-emission flight,” he stated.

ZeroAvia secured $35 million in investments from United Airlines and Alaska Air Group at the end of 2021, bringing the total investment in the company to $115 million as of mid-December 2021. Other investors included AP Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Shell Ventures, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Summa Equity, and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund.

July marked the signing of an MOU between ZeroAvia and Ravn Alaska, which included an order for 30 of the ZA2000 powertrains. Ravn intends to retrofit its fleet of De Havilland Dash-8 with ZeroAvia’s engines. The 2–5 megawatt ZA2000 modular powertrain is compatible with turboprop planes of 40 to 90 seats.

In June, ZeroAvia signed an agreement with MONTE Aircraft Leasing. The two companies will partner to offer aircraft leasing and financing solutions to operators. MONTE will also purchase up to 100 of the ZA600 powertrains for use on Cessna Caravan, DHC-6 Twin Otter, Dornier 228, and HAL-228 aircraft.

ZeroAvia also expanded an existing agreement with MHI RJ Aviation Group back in April 2022. The companies had signed an MOU at the end of 2021, and following the April announcement, MHIRJ agreed to provide engineering services and aircraft integration to support ZeroAvia’s certification of its engines.

Enabling sustainability in aviation is a priority for both American and ZeroAvia. A new partnership was formed between the hydrogen-electric engine developer and ZEV Station, a hydrogen fueling firm, earlier this year to construct infrastructure for green hydrogen refueling at airports in California. ZEV Station and ZeroAvia signed an MOU that included plans to collaborate for development of an initial project to prove the feasibility of hydrogen-electric propulsion systems.

The post American Airlines Invests in Hydrogen-Electric Engine Developer ZeroAvia appeared first on Aviation Today.

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