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Airbus Helicopters CityAirbus NextGen (technology demonstrator)

Airbus Helicopters CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft

 

CityAirbus NextGen (Technology Demonstrator)
Airbus Helicopters
Donauwörth, Germany
www.airbus.com

Airbus SE — Europe's largest aerospace company and currently the largest plane maker 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 for advanced air mobility (AAM). 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).

Airbus is currently committed to developing, building and testing alternative-propulsion systems, powered by electric, hydrogen, solar and even hybrid solutions with the ultimate goal of decarbonization for the aviation industry. Airbus' Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and ecosystem plan is being developed by using its expertise from across the Airbus Group including its helicopter division, fixed wing commercial aircraft division and its defense and space division. CityAirbus is the first generation of Airbus' eVTOL aircraft. The company does not imagine that that eVTOL aircraft will replace mass transit but will be a compliment to current transportation choices. The company's goal is to make eVTOL aircraft both sustainable from an environmental and business perspective. Safety of the eVTOL passenger aircraft is a top priority for Airbus.

CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL full-scale prototype aircraft
The CityAirbus NextGen is a four passenger eVTOL full-scale fully functional technology demonstrator aircraft. The company has stated the production aircraft of this model will be flown by one pilot, holds three passengers and their luggage for advanced air mobility (AAM). The company reported this is the first in a series of prototype eVTOL aircraft the company intends to produce. The production aircraft is predicted to perform well in many large cities across the globe. However, when battery density advances, the aircraft will have a longer range in large sprawling cities.

The aircraft has an expected cruise speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) and will have an anticipated range of 80 km (50 miles). The flight time of the prototype aircraft is unknown. The reported empty weight of the aircraft is 2,000 kg (4,409 lb). All specifications are estimated and the true specifications for the cruise speed, range, cruise altitude, flight time, maximum payload weight and other important flight specifications will only be known after the aircraft has been successfully flight tested.

The aircraft has eight propellers (each propeller has four propeller blades), has eight electric motors and is powered by battery packs. There is one high forward-swept main wing and in the rear of the aircraft is a double-boom mounted shallow U-tail. There are two boom-mounted propellers on the lead edge of the main wing, there are four boom-mounted propellers on the trailing edge of the main wing and there are two propellers mounted on the outer ends and below the U-tail. The aircraft has one large front windscreen. There are two doors on the prototype, each door has a window. The aircraft has fixed skid landing gear. The aircraft is made from carbon fiber composite for a high strength to low weight ratio.

Testing
The company reported the CityAirbus NextGen full-scale demonstrator had its first power-on test in December 2023 and more tests will be made that are required before flight tests start in 2024. The tests that will occur before the first flight of the aircraft will include testing the propellers, the electric motors, the avionics, the flight controls and more.

The company also reported that the first phase of the flight testing will take place in the company's new CityAirbus test center measuring 994 square meters (10,700 square feet) in Donauworth, Germany. The test center was officially opened on March 7, 2024. The test center will be used for CityAirbus NextGen aircraft and for any other electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft the company decides to build.

First test flight planned in 2024
Airbus Helicopters is planning for the CityAirbus NextGen demonstrator's first flight to take place sometime in 2024.

Airbus Unveils CityAirbus Prototype
On March 8, 2024 Airbus unveiled its CityAirbus NextGen prototype eVTOL aircraft. The CityAirbus NextGen features a 40 ft (12 m) wingspan and is expected to have a capacity of one pilot, three passengers and their luggage. At the same time, Airbus formally inaugurated the company’s new test center in Donauwörth, Germany, where it plans on evaluating the systems for its eVTOL aircraft. The Donauwörth test center—located at the Airbus Helicopters Deutschland plant—launched initial operations in December 2023 and will serve as the focus of test activities ahead of the company’s planned maiden flight of the CityAirbus later in the year.

CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft, high-angle oblique view

CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft, high-angle oblique view

CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft, high front view

CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft, high front view

CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft, high rear view

CityAirbus NextGen passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft, high rear view

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: eVTOL passenger aircraft
  • Piloting: 1 pilot (Piloted initially and will become autonomous when regulations allow)
  • Capacity: 3 passengers and their luggage
  • Cruise speed: 120 km/h (75 mph)
  • Range: 80 km (50 miles)
  • Flight Time: Unknown
  • Empty weight: 2,000 kg (4,409 lb)
  • Propellers: 8 propellers (each propeller has four propeller blades)
  • Electric Motors: 8 electric motors
  • Power source: Batteries
  • Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
  • Windows: Large front windscreen and each door has windows
  • Wing: 1 high forward-swept wing, 12 m (~39 ft, 4-3/8 in)
  • Tail: 1 double-boom mounted shallow U-shaped tail
  • 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. The aircraft has no moving surfaces or tilting parts when transitioning from vertical to forward flight and the reverse which increases safety by reducing complexity.

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