CityAirbus (technology demonstrator)
Airbus SE — Europe's largest aerospace company and currently the largest planemaker in the world — has business units in commercial aircraft, defense, helicopters and space. Its CityAirbus concept was initially started by Airbus Helicopters SAS, a multi-billion dollar subsidiary with headquarters is located in Marignane, France, that employees over 20,000 people worldwide. Airbus Helicopters did a feasibility study in 2015 that concluded that an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft could reach operating cost targets and safety requirements to be certified for public use. The project was moved to its Airbus Urban Mobility unit in 2018, taking advantage of company's resources in civil aircraft development and certification (Airbus Commercial Aircraft), vertical flight (Airbus Helicopters) and power systems (Airbus Defence & Space).
The CityAirbus technology demonstrator is a multi-passenger (however, there is no seating inside but is a large enough aircraft to hold passengers), full scale, autonomous piloted electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle designed for urban air mobility. (Note: This design was superseded by the CityAirbus NextGen design in September 2021.)
Eight pitch rotors are powered by eight specially designed Siemens (now Rolls-Royce) SP200D direct-drive 100 kW units relying on four 140 kW batteries developed by Airbus' Defence and Space arm. The CityAirbus will carry up to four passengers with a cruise speed of 75 mph (120 km/h). The model currently will have 15 minutes of flight time. The vehicle is designed to fly autonomously. The four carbon fiber ducted co-axial propeller configuration will contribute to a low acoustic footprint. Each duct provides 881 lb (400 kg) of thrust for a payload of up to 551 lb (250 kg).
Airbus plans for a high volume production allowing for low cost units. The CityAirbus is designed to be environmentally friendly way. The first commercial flights will employ a pilot, allowing for an entry into the market before regulations or air traffic control systems have adapted to large autonomous vehicles. The vehicle will transfer to a pilotless system once these regulations are in place. The vehicle is intended for flying between fixed routes between critical transit hubs like downtown to an airport or seaport.
Ground tests were begun in 2018. An unpainted photo of the unmanned demonstrator was released on March 6, 2019, and the company conducted the official unveiling of the demonstrator in Ingolstadt, Germany, on March 11. A tweet on May 3 by the CEO of Airbus Helicopters, Bruno Even, announced that the aircraft had flown, and on Dec.1 2020 a video was released that showcased the flight of their demonstrator. Type certification and commercial introduction are planned for 2023.
Although the CityAirbus has a significant resemblance to the Italdesign/Airbus "Pop.Up Next" concept, these are separate projects.
The first unmanned tethered flight of Airbus' CityAirbus took place on May 3, 2019 at the Airbus Helicopters flight test facility in Donauwörth, Bavaria, Germany. While there was no official statement made by Airbus Helicopters and no videos released, Bruno Evan, CEO Airbus Helicopters, made a congratulatory tweet to the CityAirbus team on May 3, 2019. We confirmed with Rotor & Wing Magazine, through their direct communication with Airbus Helicopters, that the first flight date was May 3, 2019.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL technology demonstrator
- Piloting: Autonomous
- Capacity: Large enough to hold 4 passengers (but there is no seating inside)
- Cruise speed: 120 km/h (75 mph)
- Propellers: 8 ducted propellers
- Electric Motors: 8 electric motors
- Power source: Batteries
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
- Landing gear: Fixed skid landing gear
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft.
- Airbus Helicopters website
- Airbus Facebook
- Airbus Twitter
- Airbus LinkedIn
- Article: Future of urban mobility — My kind of flyover, Airbus Forum Magazine, Summer 2016
- Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, Mar./Apr. 2017
- Article: Rethinking Urban Air Mobility, Airbus, June 17, 2017
- Article: CityAirbus demonstrator passes major propulsion testing milestone, Airbus, Oct. 7, 2017
- Video: City Airbus, Airbus Helicopters, May 12, 2018
- Article: CityAirbus eVTOL Could Fly Next Month, AerospaceDaily, Feb. 27, 2019
- Article: City Airbus eVTOL Prototype Makes First Flight in Germany, Rotor and Wing Magazine, May 3, 2019
- Article: City Airbus eVTOL Prototype Makes First Flight in Germany, Avionics International, May 6, 2019