CEO of AIR Talks eVTOLs for Personal Flight
The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) developer AIR unveiled its AIR ONE vehicle and began taking pre-orders in October 2021. In an interview with Avionics International, CEO and co-founder Rani Plaut discussed the company’s approach to designing its personal aerial vehicle and achieving FAA certification by the end of 2023. AIR looks to be growing rapidly over the last few months and has already received pre-orders for over 50 units.
There are two prototypes of the AIR ONE—a full-scale, semi-functional prototype for ground demonstration, and another large-scale that is, technologically, fully functional. Plaut explained, “We have a division of functionality so we can really sharpen the product on both the aesthetics and on the technological side.” The technologically functional prototype is set to take off in the next 4–6 weeks.
AIR has worked to differentiate the AIR ONE from other players in the eVTOL market as a vehicle intended for personal use, for “making flight accessible to regular people,” said Plaut. “Of course, a pilot license is required, but we are aiming for a very low level of training.” The eVTOL market includes small, recreational aircraft that have a very short range, and the larger eVTOLs and air taxis produced by companies such as Volocopter, Lilium, Archer, Joby, and others are designed for commercial applications. The AIR ONE, then, is sthe car of the category—a personal vehicle intended for commuting or leisure purposes.
The key features of AIR’s eVTOL are practicality, affordability, safety, and ease of handling. The range is over 100 miles, and units are priced at $150,000 each. Plaut describes the aircraft’s “extreme simplicity and high redundancy that creates a very high level of safety and very easy handling. If I train you, within an hour you will be able to operate it. You are truly enveloped in our software and are very safe.”
AIR’s vision is to bring its vehicle to the mass market, producing and selling thousands of units each year. To grow public acceptance and ensure smooth assimilation of the aircraft into low altitude airspace, the team is focusing on safety and noise reduction. “At the end of the day,” said Plaut, “the product needs to coexist with people. It’s not about the user; it’s about the whole community.” While the U.S. market is the primary target for AIR’s eVTOL, customers from Israel and the U.K. have already pre-ordered units, and Australia is another potential market.
One of the company’s priorities is designing an aircraft that can be used in a variety of applications but is not tailored to any one specific use. A rescue helicopter, in comparison, is designed with one specific set of operations in mind. Just as a car owner can use their vehicle for commuting, leisure, or a taxi service, the AIR ONE could be used by package delivery companies like UPS, by first responders, or by those working in agriculture. “It’s like an F150. You can be a plumber with an F150; you can take your family in an F150,” remarked Plaut.
“If enough people [are interested in] using the air as a means of day-to-day transportation, companies will invest in engineering efforts in order to decouple skillsets from safety. In the air, your skillset is your safety—if you’re skilled, you’re alive. In a car, the vehicle protects you. We’re trying to make things that fly as easy to live with as cars.”