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Boeing Shifts to 2.0 Phase of Smart Networked Cabin Research Project

Results from the i+SCabin2.0 research project are expected to become available by mid-2023. (Photo courtesy of Boeing Global Services)

Boeing is moving forward with the second phase of a research project designed to provide networked aircraft cabin components with the ability to send data and information to ground-based airline, maintenance, and OEM information systems with “i+SCabin2.0.”

According to a July 8 announcement from Boeing Global Services (BGS), i+SCabin2.0 is a follow-on initiative to a research project first launched as part of Boeing’s 2019 ecoDemonstrator program that demonstrated the use of smart cabin sensors to capture the technical status or health of a commercial aircraft cabin filled with passengers in real time. The 2.0 phase of the project seeks to add a data link between the networked cabin components and relevant ground systems.

“The approach of the new i+SCabin2.0 research project is to enable sharing of data obtained from the cabin with ground stations during the flight for automated processing and evaluation using artificial intelligence,” according to the BGS announcement.

Jeppesen has been tasked with using the smart sensors and edge computing technologies introduced during the first phase of the research initiative to create an operational digital twin of the average Boeing aircraft cabin that could improve the maintenance and records management processes for airlines and aircraft lessors. Further, Jeppesen seeks to capture and analyze data about individual cabin components and systems for maintenance data analytics purposes.

One of the key goals in this second phase of the smart cabin research project is the development of a generic standardized “software application hosting environment designed to accommodate applications from manufacturers, OEMs, and service providers running on an onboard cabin server.”

Boeing is working with a European alliance of aerospace industry suppliers for the i+SCabin2.0 project that includes Airbus Operations GmbH and is led by Diehl Aerospace, the Überlingen, Germany-based interiors and avionics supplier. An update on their involvement in the project released by Diehl last month notes that the company has some specific research goals it would like to achieve as part of the project as well.

“Another work package investigates wireless mechanisms that assign specific devices to a functional position,” the company writes. “For example, a passenger service unit can be assigned to a specific seating group. As part of i+SCabin2.0, Diehl investigates whether and how the determined position information can contribute to digitizing the cabin configuration process.”

Diehl will also use their involvement in the project to assess the possibility of automating cabin inspections and accelerating the passenger onboarding process, among others. The company expects the i+sCabin2.0 research project’s results to become available by the “middle of 2023” presented in a technology demonstrator.

The post Boeing Shifts to 2.0 Phase of Smart Networked Cabin Research Project appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Airbus Secures Flight Management Computers, Vision Systems Suppliers for Eurodrone

Airbus has confirmed two new suppliers for the Eurodrone, pictured here at the ILA Berlin air show in the form of a mockup at Airbus’ static display. (Photo courtesy of Airbus)

Airbus Defence and Space has secured two new technology supplier agreements with Kappa Optronics and Saab for Eurodrone, the next generation military unmanned aircraft system (UAS) program that the French manufacturer is leading development on.

Saab will be supplying modular computers that will enable “multiple functions” for the Eurodrone’s flight management and airspace integration systems, according to an announcement made by the Swedish aerospace and defense manufacturer last week. That award comes several weeks after Airbus signed an agreement with Kappa Optronics, the German aviation camera maker, to provide vision systems for the Eurodrone.

Kappa Optronics and Saab are the latest in a series of supplier agreements established by Airbus following its signing of the Eurodrone global contract with the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) in February. Under the agreement reached in February, Airbus is serving as the industry prime for Eurodrone while representing Airbus Defence and Space S.A.U in Spain, Dassault Aviation in France, and Leonardo S.p.A. in Italy as the three major sub-contractors. OCCAR signed the agreement on behalf of the launch nations, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to acquire 20 Eurodrone systems and five years of initial in-service support, while seeking to develop the UAS entirely using European technologies.

Johannes Overhues, co-shareholder and CEO of Kappa Optronics, with José-Maria Hernandez-Garcia and Miguel Angel Escudero Garcia from Airbus DS with the signed Eurodrone contract they announced in June. (Photo, courtesy of Kappa Optronics)

Airbus describes Eurodrone as a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft that will be tasked with supporting Intelligence, Surveillance Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions, homeland security operations, and other future defense needs. Each individual Eurodrone consists of three unmanned aircraft controlled by a single ground station.

The selection of Kappa will be the company’s second major supplier agreement with Airbus; it already supplies the camera system for the A330 MRRT. A representative for Saab told Avionics International in an emailed statement that the computer they’re providing as part of their Eurodrone selection is a “multiple processor” system.

“The solution is based on extensive Background IP from Saabs existing Safety Critical Computer platform product line including among other features a Cross Channel Data Link solution similar to the solution in the similar computer Saab once developed for Airbus for the Talarion program,” the representative said. “First delivery from Saab is due 2024.”

The post Airbus Secures Flight Management Computers, Vision Systems Suppliers for Eurodrone appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Merlin Labs Raises $105 Million In New Funding Round, Announces Software Work On C-130J

Autonomous flight technology developer Merlin Labs on Wednesday said that company has raised $105 million in new funding as it continues to build out its three phased—crawl, walk, run—approach to introducing autonomy to large and small aircraft.

The Series B funding round was driven by investments from Snowpoint Ventures and Baille Gifford, and includes “major participation” from existing investor GV. In 2021, Merlin raised $25 million in a Series A round led by venture capital firm GV and First Round Capital.

Merlin, which is based in Boston, primarily plans to use the new funding to boost its staffing, particularly for software and avionics engineers, and expand testing. The company also will continue to build out its air charter Part 135 freight capability in New Zealand.

One of Merlin’s engineers works on their autonomous system at their hangar in Mojave, California. (Photo, courtesy of Merlin)

Merlin is aiming to employ its artificial intelligence technology so that large aircraft can fly with reduced crew and small aircraft require no crew. Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand awarded its first certification basis for an autonomous flight system to Merlin.

The company says its AI technology integrates into existing flight decks to augment current flights and power future autonomous flights. Ultimately, their goal with their autonomous system is to establish its ability to perform all the duties of a human pilot using a “sense, think, act” control loop. Their system uses GPS/INS, air data, and attitude and heading reference system (ADHRS) to update the system with a three-dimensional position of the aircraft and its attitude at all times.

The company also said it has entered a partnership with the Air Force to bring autonomy to the service’s C-130J transport aircraft with the goal being enhancing safety and providing operational flexibility. Under their “Other Transaction Agreement” contract with the Air Force, Merlin plans to enable autonomy in the cockpit by introducing software and hardware to accompany the pilots.

A U.S. Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules aircraft. (Photo: U.S. Air Force.)

Merlin is flying with its technology on a surrogate aircraft in Mojave, Calif.

On its website, Merlin says it has flown more than 400 autonomous missions and accumulated more than 800 hours of flight time on five models of aircraft.

 

This article was first published by Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International, it has been edited.

The post Merlin Labs Raises $105 Million In New Funding Round, Announces Software Work On C-130J appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Vertical Aerospace Chooses Molicel to Provide Battery Cells for the VX4 eVTOL

eVTOL developer Vertical Aerospace selected Molicel to provide battery cells for Vertical’s VX4 eVTOL aircraft. (Photo: Vertical Aerospace)

Lithium-ion cell manufacturer Molicel was recently chosen by Vertical Aerospace to supply battery cells for the VX4 air taxi. Vertical is designing and manufacturing the VX4, its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, with capacity for a single pilot and four passengers. The eVTOL developer is targeting entry into service in 2025 for the VX4. 

Vertical revealed its full-scale design of the VX4 in December 2021, and the company announced a merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp. around the same time. Since then, Vertical’s ordinary shares have been listed on the New York Stock Exchange as EVTL. Conditional pre-orders for Vertical’s aircraft total 1,350, including customers such as American Airlines, Avolon, and Bristow.

Following the latest announcement from Vertical Aerospace, Molicel, or E-One Moli Energy Corp, will work in coordination with Vertical as a strategic partner to supply high-power cylindrical cells for the eVTOL aircraft. Vertical selected Molicel in part because of its high-power cylindrical cell format, which will help Vertical, in the process of certifying its aircraft, to demonstrate management of thermal runaway events.

“The cylindrical cell format has been selected by many OEMs, not only for eVTOLs but also automobiles, due to its CID top cap safety design which allows internal pressure to be released so as not to further accumulate heat inside,” a source from Molicel told Avionics International in an emailed statement. 

The company’s representative noted that the format offers the ability to release the pressure in a specific direction, enabling a high level of safety in the battery system. Additionally, the source wrote, “Its rigid body can protect a single cell to remain independent in a thermal runaway situation, which means the chances of propagation [are reduced] by the battery pack design.”

Based on the current agreement, Molicel’s team will support Vertical Aerospace throughout the certification process and during its eVTOL’s entry into service. 

The main advantage of Molicel’s battery cell, according to the company’s representative, is the low impedance—referring to both internal resistance and reactance. The low-impedance battery cell technology is well-suited for applications requiring a high rate of power discharge during the take-off and landing phases, as well as fast charging capabilities to increase ridership capacity. “Since the battery cell is designed for high power discharge and fast charge, the life cycle thus is much better compared to high impedance types of energy cells,” the source explained.

A joint working group was established between Vertical and Molicel that is focused on safety of the battery cell system for the VX4 as well as reliability and performance. Vertical’s eVTOL and the battery system from Molicel will be certified with both the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Molicel operates a facility in Taipei with 1.6GWh in annual production capacity, and the company plans to open a second Gigafactory in Kaohsiung City, also in Taiwan, next year. According to the representative, annual capacity at this new facility is expected to reach 1.8GWh in 2024. The production process is designed to support Molicel’s customers with solutions for customization, and improved levels of accuracy are “key for keeping our latest low impedance cells INR21700-P45B suitable for high-quality mass production,” commented the company’s spokesperson. They added that this factory will have the highest production capacity for high-power cell manufacturing in the world.

According to the announcement from Vertical Aerospace, Molicel’s advanced manufacturing technology includes a unique approach to cell traceability that “will guarantee the consistency and quality required to meet aerospace standards.”

The founder and CEO of Vertical, Stephen Fitzpatrick, commented that safe, high-performance battery systems are necessary for electrifying aviation. “Molicel has a rich history of innovation and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in energy storage. We see many similarities between ourselves and Molicel and we couldn’t think of a better partner to bring the VX4 to market,” Fitzpatrick stated in response to the formation of the new strategic partnership.

Molicel’s high-power lithium-ion cells offer Vertical Aerospace the ability to keep the aircraft’s weight low, and enable increased safety as well as improved charging capabilities, said Dr. Limhi Somerville, Head of Battery for Vertical, regarding the partnership with Molicel. “It has been a privilege to work alongside the excellent Molicel team in testing, evaluating and analysing their lithium-ion cells. Both here and in Taiwan,” Somerville remarked.

Avolon, an aircraft leasing company and one of several companies that has pre-ordered eVTOLs from Vertical Aerospace, placed an order for 500 VX4 aircraft last year. An announcement in March revealed that Air Greenland committed to purchasing or leasing multiple VX4 eVTOLs from Avolon to add to its fleet. Air Greenland and Avolon have also formed a working group to evaluate applications for eVTOL transportation in Greenland.

The post Vertical Aerospace Chooses Molicel to Provide Battery Cells for the VX4 eVTOL appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Spirit Airlines Rolls Out New FlytLIVE In-Flight Connectivity Service

Spirit Airlines released this and a series of other images Wednesday showing its A320 and A321 fleet equipped with new antennas and radomes connecting passengers to its FlytLIVE in-flight internet service, which became available for the first time on July 13. (Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airlines has begun providing in-flight internet services to its passengers across most of its Airbus A320 and A321-operated flights, according to a July 13 announcement.

The rollout of in-flight connectivity (IFC) by Spirit comes following several years of delays in getting the service launched, with the Miramar, Florida-based low-cost airline’s former president Ted Christie initially targeting mid-2019. Starting today, passengers now have the ability to connect to Spirit’s IFC service using the Thales “FlytLIVE” cabin portal that the Toulouse-based company describes as a platform that supports “full Internet services including video streaming, games, social media and live television” to passengers.

The service is currently active across all of Spirit’s A320 and A321 aircraft, with expansion to their A319 fleet expected to occur at a future date that is not yet determined. According to Thales, FlytLIVE is enabled by a set of strategic agreements first established with satellite operators SES and Hughes Network Systems in 2017. Under the agreements, SES contracts Hughes for service on EchoStar XVII and EchoStar XIX HTS satellites, and combines them with its AMC-15 and AMC-16 satellites to provide the four-satellite network initially enabling connectivity for Spirit passengers.

A fifth satellite, SES-17, was confirmed as operational by the U.K.-based operator on June 16. SES-17 is a High Throughput System (HTS) Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellite, the first operated by SES to feature a totally digital payload. It features 200 spot-beams that can be dynamically adjusted and aligned to changing customer needs.

“This is a real groundbreaking moment in the industry as Spirit adds in-flight amenities and product options that have previously not been available on ultra-low fare carriers.” – Matt Klein, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Spirit Airlines. (Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

Spirit is claiming that once FlytLIVE starts leveraging the SES-17 satellite’s capabilities, its in-flight internet experience will “offer the best availability in the Americas and will be faster than other airlines based on published data.”

IFC purchasing options for Spirit passengers have been separated into a browsing category that starts at $2.99 and a streaming category that starts at $5.99. Pricing for both options increases based on the duration of the flight, with Spirit also claiming that the streaming option is “20x faster than our browsing option.”

In a separate press release announcing the availability of the new service, Thales claims FlytLIVE will deliver “ultra-high speeds of up to 400 Mbps” to Spirit aircraft.

The FlytLIVE service will initially be available on the majority of the routes operated by Spirit, with the exception of select routes in the Caribbean Islands, as well as Central and South America. Once FlytLIVE connects to the SES-17 satellite however, the service is expected to expand to all routes operated by Spirit.

“The system’s reliability and performance is getting rave reviews from Spirit’s passengers who can now stream to their heart’s content.” – TK Kallenbach, CEO Thales InFlyt Experience

Matt Klein, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Spirit Airlines, commenting on the go-live date of satellite connectivity featured on passenger-carrying flights, calls it a “groundbreaking moment in the industry as Spirit adds in-flight amenities and product options that have previously not been available on ultra-low fare carriers.”

Spirit now joins Southwest, JetBlue, and Breeze Airways as the only U.S.-based low-cost carriers providing—or committed to in the case of Breeze—in-flight internet service. Avelo, the California-based low cost carrier launched last year, has previously told Avionics International that it will eventually equip its fleet with IFC. A representative for Frontier has also previously told Avionics the weight and cost of the equipment prevents them from investing in IFC, while Allegiant and Sun Country have remained open to the possibility of eventually connecting their passengers to in-flight internet.

The post Spirit Airlines Rolls Out New FlytLIVE In-Flight Connectivity Service appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Full-Scale AIR ONE eVTOL Prototype Performs Its First Hover Flight

AIR just announced the successful completion of its AIR ONE eVTOL aircraft’s first hover test, which was performed in June. (Photo: AIR)

AIR successfully completed the first hover test of its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) prototype, according to an announcement from the company this week. The initial flight took place on June 21 in northern Israel, and the AIR ONE aircraft performed multiple hover flight tests over the following two weeks. AIR published a video of the eVTOL aircraft’s hover flight along with the announcement.

AIR’s CEO and co-founder Rani Plaut told Avionics International in an interview that the company has focused on two main objectives: developing a full-scale flying prototype, and creating the mass production unit which will be the basis for certification. 

The full-scale prototype program started about 14 months ago, said Plaut. Next, the team will be “expanding within about two months to full-envelope flight testing,” and performing a full range of testing by the end of this year. He added that they expect to put a person inside the aircraft for flight testing in early 2023.

The wingspan of this prototype is about 7.5 meters, or about 24.5 feet. “We have flown things up to 9 meters in wingspan,” Plaut remarked, “but this is the first time we are starting to fly with the full form factor of the product in a configuration that can take two people.” AIR is validating the performance and components with this unit before implementation in the final product. The eVTOL prototype has a take-off weight of 868 kilograms (about 1,900 pounds) and the capacity for 250 kg of payload (about 550 pounds). Its maximum speed will be 155 miles per hour.

The AIR ONE is described as a personal aerial vehicle, targeting customers who want to use an eVTOL for commuting and leisure activities. (Photo: AIR)

Plaut noted that the end product will start flying in the U.S. towards the end of 2023. AIR is working towards certification with the Federal Aviation Administration with this mass production unit, which has already received more than 150 pre-orders. At the beginning of 2022, that number was closer to 50 units.

AIR is building its supply chain and has already signed a few agreements with leading companies. “About 20% to 25% of the components are already assigned to vendors,” according to Plaut. Though he has observed that the number of companies supplying components to eVTOL developers is growing quickly, it is currently a relatively small pool of potential suppliers. The vendors that AIR selects, he said, need to meet not only performance requirements but also supply chain requirements because the company is targeting mass production of units in the thousands.

Flying the AIR ONE prototype was a significant milestone for the company. The next challenge the team is facing is establishing a robust supply chain. Rani Plaut commented that many suppliers have changed, or are in the process of changing, their prices and scope. The problems with the supply chain are, of course, not unique to any one eVTOL developer. “This is a global problem. We are all in the same boat,” he stated.

“It was truly awe-inspiring to watch AIR ONE lift off the ground for the first time. We’ve been on this upward journey for nearly five years and cannot wait for the public to join us on this ride,” said Rani Plaut, CEO and co-founder. (Photo: AIR)

The regulators have been very constructive, Plaut affirmed, and are “actively looking for ways to make it easier, rather than harder.” He added that their strategy of targeting the personal transportation market rather than the commercial route, which most eVTOL companies are pursuing, has made things somewhat easier. AIR will still face some hurdles related to certification, but in general, there will be fewer hoops to jump through on the private route.

“Putting something in the sky—it’s just the beginning of a solution,” Plaut said. “Once you have a commercial solution, you need to start a company which cannot start operating unless it solves the whole formula. You need airways, places to land; it is a much more structured solution.”

A differentiating factor of the AIR ONE is that it is aimed at making eVTOL flight accessible to a wide range of people. It is intended to be used for commuting or leisure activities. “Of course, a pilot license is required, but we are aiming for a very low level of training,” Plaut told Avionics in January during an interview. He explained that the aircraft will be extremely simple to operate, with minimal training required.

The post Full-Scale AIR ONE eVTOL Prototype Performs Its First Hover Flight appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Virgin Atlantic to Equip Airbus A330neo Fleet with Viasat In-Flight Connectivity Service

Virgin Atlantic’s new A330neo fleet will feature Viasat in-flight connectivity. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic’s new fleet of Airbus A330-900neo aircraft will feature in-flight connectivity (IFC) services enabled by Viasat’s Ka-band satellite network, according to a July 12 announcement from the two companies.

Under a new agreement, the 16 new Virgin Atlantic A330-900s awaiting delivery at the Airbus Center of Excellence production site in Toulouse, France, will be line fit with Viasat antennas, modems, and wireless access points. The new IFC selection by Virgin Atlantic makes Viasat the third IFC service provider to be added to an aircraft type operated by the airline, which also features Gogo 2Ku on its legacy Airbus A330s and A340s as well as its Boeing 747s.

Virgin’s A350 fleet also features IFC provided by Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) network.

Don Buchman, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Aviation for Viasat, commenting on the Virgin Atlantic selection, says the company looks forward to “bringing our technology and service capabilities to Virgin Atlantic and its customers.”

Virgin Atlantic has become the third new airline customer added to Viasat’s IFC roster this year with its selection, joining Breeze Airways and Southwest Airlines as the other two latest airlines to choose Viasat. The IFC equipment being installed on Virgin’s A330-900neo fleet will be forward-compatible with the next generation satellite constellation being rolled out by Viasat with ViaSat-3.

Virgin Atlantic revealed images of the cabin interior for its A330neo fleet today. (Photo, courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

According to comments made by former Viasat President and CEO Rick Baldridge during an earnings call in May, Viasat expects to have its Viasat-3 satellite network ready to provide initial commercial services by January of next year. Mark Dankberg, who shifted to the company’s executive chairman role last year, has returned to the company as CEO, taking over for Baldridge, who will take on the newly created vice chairman role of the company.

Other details released about Virgin’s new A330 fleet by the Heathrow-based airline include in-flight entertainment touchscreens, Bluetooth, and wireless charging with every seat onboard.

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commenting on the new A330neo fleet, says the airline’s desire to “create memorable experiences means we’ll continue to imagine with fresh ideas. We’re proud to unveil our state of the art A330neo and show the evolution of our customer experience, with each of our customers receiving a premium experience regardless of the cabin they travel in. They’ll be better connected with their fellow travellers and our amazing crew in the air, and with their friends and family on the ground.”

Virgin expects to begin operating its first passenger-carrying A330neo flights between London and Boston by early October. The airline will receive three new A330s from Airbus starting in September, with the remainder scheduled for delivery between 2023 and 2026.

 

The post Virgin Atlantic to Equip Airbus A330neo Fleet with Viasat In-Flight Connectivity Service appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Skyfly Announces New eVTOL Aircraft, Plans to Begin Production in 2024

Skyfly, based in the U.K., has designed an eVTOL aircraft called the Axe. The company plans to certify the aircraft and begin production within the next two years. (Photo: Skyfly)

U.K.-based aerospace company Skyfly has announced the launch of the development program for its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the Axe, which is now available for pre-orders. The vehicle is a two-seater with a 100- to 200-mile range and a cruise speed of 100 mph. Eight 35KW electric motors power the Axe, and in addition to vertical take-off and landing capabilities, the fixed-wing design enables the aircraft to perform conventional take-off and landings when a runway is available. Skyfly expects to start production in 2024.

The company’s founder and CEO, Michael Thompson, told Avionics International that Skyfly has been testing and making modifications to a smaller-scale prototype for the past two years. The team is now working to build and certify the full-scale aircraft in partnership with the Light Aircraft Association, the representative body in the UK that oversees amateur aircraft construction and recreational flying under the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval. Once certified, the Axe can be operated in most countries in Europe.

Skyfly’s Axe was co-developed by Michael Thompson and William Brooks, an aeronautical engineer and designer. It includes two sets of short wings, along with non-rotating engines mounted at a 45-degree angle. Thompson commented in the launch announcement, “The rotating engines or rotating wings the competition uses are heavy, complex, expensive, less safe and require maintenance.”

Says Skyfly CCO Jaap Rademaker: “The Axe is so quiet and compact that, combined with its option to autoland on a ‘homing patch’ attached to the top deck of a yacht, it will allow passengers to fly themselves to and from the shore while staying dry and comfortable, and with a small eco-footprint.” (Photo: Skyfly)

The targeted customers for Skyfly’s eVTOL model are existing pilots and aircraft owners. The Axe can be kept at their home and used for direct flights to their destinations, eliminating the need to rent a hangar next to an established aircraft runway.

Other groups that have expressed interest in the Axe are yacht manufacturers and owners—for flying passengers from the yacht to shore—and private jet operators who need to quickly transport clients from home to the airport.

The company has already picked out three suppliers to provide different components for the Axe, but Skyfly has not yet chosen a battery supplier for their eVTOL aircraft, said Thompson. The Axe will include removable lithium batteries, and the battery system is designed with multiple redundancies to enable continued flight even in the case of a battery failure, according to the company. Thompson stated that they have selected Geiger Engineering, a company that manufactures electric motors primarily for fixed wing aircraft, to provide the Axe’s eight brushless motors.

Spanish company Embention is supplying the quadruple-redundant flight control system for Skyfly. Embention has collaborated with another eVTOL developer, Lift Aircraft, to provide the 4x Veronte Autopilot for Lift’s Hexa. A third supplier selected by Skyfly, Rotron Power, will contribute a hybrid generator system for the Axe.

As eVTOL aircraft enter the market, there will be a need for pilots that can operate the larger commercial eVTOL vehicles. Thompson explained that there are not currently any cost-effective options for training eVTOL pilots, but their Axe will be an affordable option for a general aviation platform that pilots in training can use to fulfill the requirements. The base price of the compact Axe aircraft will be $180,000 (£150,000).

Pilots will have previous experience operating either fixed-wing or rotary aircraft, Thompson said. To train these pilots for eVTOL operations, “they are only going to have to learn one or the other,” he commented. “The controls for fixed-wing, and the controls for helicopters, are exactly the same as in the eVTOL.”

The Axe’s potential for the eVTOL training market is huge, according to Chief Commercial Officer Jaap Rademaker, commenting on the launch of their eVTOL. “Because commercial air taxis will not be autonomous for a decade or so, they will require pilots, and those pilots will need to be trained to fly eVTOLs,” Rademaker said.

“The design is kept simple and very light and robust – because Skyfly believes the only criterium is kilowatt hours per passenger mile: using as little energy as possible to cover a passenger for a mile.” – Michael Thompson, Founder and CEO (Photo: Skyfly)

Public acceptance is central to Skyfly’s strategy, Thompson noted. “If people get comfortable with what Joby’s doing, they’ll get comfortable with what we’re doing. We have to work together to get this market into play.”

He also believes that there are too many eVTOL developers targeting the same market. “The reputation of the industry is sort of in jeopardy,” he said, adding that there is not enough room for all of these companies to succeed. “There’s a lot of money being raised for things that aren’t going to ever work.”

The post Skyfly Announces New eVTOL Aircraft, Plans to Begin Production in 2024 appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Lilium Selects L3Harris Extra Light Data Recorder for eVTOL Aircraft

L3Harris’ new extra light data recorder was selected by Lilium to use in its eVTOL aircraft. (Photo: Lilium)

Lilium, developer of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, recently confirmed its selection of L3Harris to supply extra light data recorders for the Lilium Jet. The standard version of the light data recorder designed by L3Harris is currently fielded in 15 aircraft models. The extra light data recorder, or xLDR, complies with global recommendations and requirements for recorders on smaller aircraft. In 2023, the company expects to release the production version of its xLDR.

According to L3Harris, their extra light data recorder weighs 2.43 pounds, and it has a large storage capacity for audio and flight data within a crash-protected memory module. “Our xLDR leverages our field-proven platform to reduce weight and provide other enhancements specific to the eVTOL market and small aircraft specifications,” noted Alan Crawford, President of L3Harris Commercial Aviation.

Flight data recorders (FDR) perform the same general functions for a range of aircraft, but there are a couple of differences between an FDR designed for the commercial and business aviation markets versus smaller aircraft, like eVTOLs. Darshan Gandhi, Business Development Manager at L3Harris, explained that larger aircraft will typically use two flight recorders, one for voice and one for flight data. “They are spatially separated to provide redundancy,” he told Avionics. In comparison, an eVTOL aircraft would only need one FDR because it is a much smaller vehicle.

The L3Harris SRVIVR25 series of 25-hour cockpit voice and data recorders received TSO certification from the FAA in May 2020. (Photo: L3Harris)

Another difference is how crash-resistant the recorder needs to be. L3Harris’ recorders for commercial and business aviation, for example, can support pressure depths up to 6,000 meters, according to Gandhi. He adds, “You don’t have the same level of stringent requirements with eVTOL aircraft. The standards are a bit vague.” 

In developing a smaller aircraft like an eVTOL, every component and additional unit of weight needs to be considered. The xLDR has to be designed in as small of a package as possible while still maintaining requirements for survivability in the case of an accident. “That is the balancing act we’ve taken with our recorders, and particularly with the one we’re doing with Lilium,” Gandhi noted.

One of the reasons Lilium selected L3Harris to provide the xLDR is the well-known reputation that the company has for its flight data recorder hardware. ”It’s our division’s bread and butter,” he said. He also remarked that they have worked to reduce the weight of the system even further for the Lilium Jet, while still maintaining compliance and ensuring safety. 

The high-level function of a flight data recorder does not change much when designed for aircraft that use electric power. However, because of the higher level of electrification, there will be more sensors, which results in more data and real-time monitoring. Higher quantities of data produced by eVTOL aircraft will be used to monitor things like system performance and battery degradation on an ongoing basis. It will also be useful to analyze any trends in the data that indicate needed improvements for flight operations.

Pictured above is the Lightweight Data Recorder that L3Harris developed for small aircraft, providing crash-protected audio, image, and flight data recording. (Photo: L3Harris)

Christopher Jesse, Chief Technical Officer for L3Harris Flight Data Services, explains that the team collects data from numerous sources like flight simulators and weather data, but flight data recorders provide the richest source of data. Their systems receive data from thousands of aircraft, and Jesse expects that their database will record information from 6 million flights in 2022 alone.

The information collected by the data science team at L3Harris is used for multiple purposes. The first one Jesse mentioned is compliance—making sure the flight data recorders are working effectively. “If you have an incident, you want to rely upon that data in the recorder to find the cause of that accident,” he explained. 

Secondly, by analyzing large amounts of data, it is possible to predict component failures and perform preventive maintenance. This will be particularly important for eVTOL aircraft, since it is an entirely new type of aircraft with new equipment and hardware, Jesse remarked. “How those are all linked together and work effectively will be very interesting to see,” he said. “It’s a similar framework, processing, and analytics, but the results and insights will be different.”

L3Harris also enables efficiency improvements by collecting and analyzing data. Efficiency usually means finding the best route for fuel conservation. The team looks at weather forecasts, temperatures along the planned route, and any shortcuts that might be cost-effective. For eVTOL aircraft, the focus will be on battery usage and maintaining the efficiency of batteries.

“On the data analytics side, it’s very important to us to make sure that the safety of operation is paramount,” Jesse stated. “A lot of that is monitoring adherence to SOPs.” They look for any anomalies indicating deviations from the standard operating procedures. Even though eVTOL aircraft will use a significant amount of automation to determine optimal flight paths, the data analysts can evaluate how well a pilot adheres to the recommended route. And a lot of issues detected by flight data recorders or flight simulators can be addressed with improvements to pilot training, Jesse commented. 

The post Lilium Selects L3Harris Extra Light Data Recorder for eVTOL Aircraft appeared first on Aviation Today.

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New Report Compares EASA, FAA Approaches to Certifying Commercial Airplanes

A new report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office compares regulatory approaches to certifying new airplane designs, such as the A321XLR pictured during its first flight here, by EASA and the FAA. (Photo courtesy of Airbus)

A new report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found key differences in the approaches used by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration toward compliance and verification engineering activities for the certification of new and modified commercial airplane designs.

The 48-page report was compiled by GAO based on interviews primarily with officials representing both civil aviation regulatory agencies, Airbus, Boeing, and other aviation industry OEMs. One interesting discovery reported by GAO’s researchers pertains to the difference in how EASA regulates Design Organisations (DO) versus FAA’s regulation of companies that have Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) approvals.

“FAA is responsible for making airplane certification compliance determinations but generally delegates the vast majority of these determinations for manufacturers to make on its behalf,” GAO writes in the report. “However, EASA officials told us manufacturers in Europe are themselves responsible for making all compliance findings and verification under oversight of EASA.”

EASA prohibits its own compliance verification engineers from providing verification compliance services on systems or designs that they have worked on as an employee of that manufacturer. The European agency also requires Design Organisations to feature participation from all engineering units of an OEM’s company that contribute directly to a product’s design, type certification, and compliance activities. Aviation OEMs in the U.S., however, typically only have certification compliance activities completed by those experts who have been delegated to complete them within a specialized ODA unit of the company.

Based on interviews with multiple aviation stakeholders about this difference between how DOs and ODAs are structured, GAO concludes that “because a Design Organisation includes more parts of the manufacturer’s company, this means EASA evaluates more aspects of the manufacturer’s company when approving and overseeing the Design Organisation than FAA does for ODA holders.”

Several steps are being taken by the FAA to improve its certification process and the level of approval and oversight administered to ODA units for compliance and verification activities, according to findings reported by GAO. As an example, in February, the FAA announced plans to expand its use of Technical Advisory Boards that conduct independent technical reviews of certification projects for new and modified commercial airplane designs.

The FAA is also developing a new set of metrics that will measure the performance of its aircraft certification process, according to the report.

The post New Report Compares EASA, FAA Approaches to Certifying Commercial Airplanes appeared first on Aviation Today.

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