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Aurora Flight Sciences Pegasus PAV (prototype)

 

Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) (prototype)
Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company
Manassas, Virginia, USA
www.aurora.aero

Aurora Flight Sciences was founded in May 1989 in Alexandria, Virginia, USA by John Langford, III (with a PhD in Aeronautics and Public Policy from MIT) and with two employees. Aurora Flight Sciences is an American aviation and aeronautics research and development company that that designs and manufacturing uncrewed and crewed autonomous aircraft, aerosystems manufacturing and prototyping, flight operations and testing, and more. The company also designs and manufactures electric and hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft for the advanced air mobility (AAM) and other uses.

Boeing announced they had purchased Aurora Flight Sciences on Nov. 18 2017. In 2018, the company had about 550 employees among its four main sites. In May 2024, the company's LinkedIn web page state they have 866 employees. Through 2024, the company has designed and flown 30 aircraft in its first 30 years of history. Aurora bills itself as "an innovative technology company which strives to create smarter aircraft through the development of versatile and intuitive autonomous systems."

Aurora is an independent subsidiary of Boeing. What that means is that it combines Aurora's innovation with Boeing's' strength. They are the world's largest [aerospace company] with one of the most successful product lines. But they do not build eVTOL today. No company builds eVTOL today. That is a market that does not exist.

So how do you go after a market that doesn't exist? The idea is to have Aurora explore these markets that involve very advanced technology, then do the prototyping work, then the market exploration work, and hopefully find new markets and new programs that can be fed into Boeing so that when someone wants a few thousands of those airplanes, Boeing can do it. So that's the idea behind the merger, our innovation with their size and strength. — John S. Lanford, III.

From Vertiflite magazine, May/Jun. 2018, page 48.

Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) eVTOL prototype aircraft
The Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) is an autonomous full-scale two passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) prototype aircraft. The aircraft can be piloted or flown autonomously and has room for luggage. Aurora Flight Sciences has made both subscale and full-scale prototypes for this particular aircraft design shown above. The company has made at least two different concept design drawings, each with a different wing layout. The first flight of the full-scale prototype was on January 22, 2019. While the aircraft has seating for two passengers, the aircraft was always flown uncrewed.

The aircraft has eight propellers for vertical flight (mounted on two booms parallel to the fuselage), one tail mounted pusher-prop for forward flight, has nine electric motors and is powered by battery packs. The cruise speed of the aircraft is 112 mph (180 km/h) and has a range of 50 miles (80 km).

The aircraft has a three-surface wing configuration for forward flight. The aircraft has one low main wing, two low booms parallel to the fuselage which hold the eight VTOL-only propellers and has one forward swept canard. The tail is a wide U-tail and the rear of the aircraft has two downward angled vertical stabilizers that connect with the U-tail. The booms are held in place with the front canard wing and the rear U-tail. The empty weight of the aircraft is 1,265 lb (565 (kg), has a maximum payload weight of 496 lb (225 kg) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,761 lb (790 kg). The total length of the fuselage and wings is 30 ft (9.14 m) and has a wingspan of 28 ft (8.53 m). The aircraft has fixed quadricycle and very short landing struts.

Pegasus history:
Aurora’s aircraft is born out of a 2017 partnership with Uber as part of the Uber Elevate Mission. Initially, a 1/10 model was flown with and without a fuselage. This was followed by a fully configured 1/4 sized model. On Jan. 22, 2019, a full-size prototype of this design (registration details for tail number N83AU here) was successfully hovered at the Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, Virginia, USA. The PAV prototype completed a controlled takeoff, hover and landing testing the vehicle's autonomous functions as well as the ground control systems.

Aurora expects that the noise at takeoff will blend in with background road traffic noise at a height of 6-100 ft (18-30 m), making the aircraft essentially "inaudible" from the ground when in cruise flight.

This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy, said John Langford, III, president and chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences. Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.

From Vertiflite magazine, Mar./Apr. 2019, page 37.

On June 4, 2019 at 7:09 a.m., the Aurora Flight Sciences Pegasus Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) number N83AU — which was uncrewed and remotely piloted — crashed during a landing on runway 34L at the Manassas Regional Airport, Manassas, Virginia, USA. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported the details in October. It is interesting to note that the world first learned about of the name of PAV aircraft, "Pegasus," from this NTSB report.

According to the NTSB report, Aurora Flight Sciences was flying a pre-planned low speed flight stability test including side-to-side and forward flight maneuvers with the pusher propeller off. The pilots then noticed "brief data dropouts and abnormal motor speeds," and decided to end the flight. The pilot followed normal operation procedures by entering the autoland function and shortly after the start of a normal descent, all electric motors stopped and the aircraft crash landed.

A review of the recorded data was provided by the operator/manufacturer revealed that airframe vibration occurred in a resonant mode and was transmitted through the structure into the flight controller. The accelerations resulting from the vibrations briefly exceeded the jerk logic threshold and the aircraft entered the ground mode, subsequently commanding the motors to shutdown. The aircraft was equipped with a radar altimeter, but in this test configuration it was not used for ground detection in the autoland sequence. — NTSB report.

There were no injuries but there was structural damage to multiple parts of the aircraft and two motors were fractured. According to a Vertical Magazine article, Aurora Flight Sciences plans on resuming the flying of their second prototype in early 2020.

As one of Uber Elevate's vehicle partners (at the time), the aircraft has been designed as an air taxi to operate in urban environments and to easily fly, to and from Uber's Skyports. The PAV for Uber's missions will be a four passenger eVTOL aircraft. Aurora also has other hybrid-electric VTOL technologies it can apply to the advanced air mobility (AAM) market. The organization has been responsible for the development of other VTOL aircraft in the past, including the Aurora LightningStrike. Uber Elevate was sold to Joby Aviation in December 2020 and Uber Elevate is now a defunct program.

On May 8, 2018, at the second Uber Elevate Summit, Aurora unveiled three design variants that are also being considered.

This January 2019 graphic is believed to be the current configuration of Aurora's aircraft for the Uber Elevate mission.

1/4 Subscale PAV Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: Subscale eVTOL prototype aircraft
  • First flight: April 2017
  • Piloting: Autonomous
  • Capacity: No passengers
  • Cruise speed: 56 mph (90 km/h)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 27.6 lb (12.5 kg)
  • Propellers: 8 VTOL propellers, 1 pusher propeller
  • Electric motors:  9 electric motors, 8 X 100 hp (8 X 75 kW)
  • Power source: Battery packs
  • Fuselage: 6.6 ft (2 m) length, 6.6 ft (2 m) width
  • Wings: 1 main low main wing with winglets, 2 low booms parallel to the fuselage to hold the 8 VTOL propellers, 1 canard (or forewing)
  • Tail: 1 U tail on the ends of the 2 booms, 2 downward angled vertical stabilizers under the rear of the fuselage
  • Landing gear: Fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear
  • Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) means having multiple propellers (or electric ducted fans) and multiple electric motors on an aircraft so if one or more propellers (or electric ducted fans) or some electric motors fail, the other working propellers (or electric ducted fans) and electric motors can safely land the aircraft. DEP provides safety through redundancy for passengers or cargo. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft providing safety through redundancy. Having multiple redundant systems on any aircraft decreases having any single point of failure.

Full-Scale PAV Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: Full-scale passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft
  • First flight: January 22, 2019
  • Piloting: Autonomous
  • Capacity: 2 passengers
  • Cruise speed: 112 mph (180 km/h)
  • Range: 50 miles (80 km)
  • Flight time:
  • Cruise altitude:
  • Empty weight: 1,265 lb (565 (kg)
  • Maximum payload weight: 496 lb (225 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 1,761 lb (790 kg)
  • Propellers: 8 VTOL propellers, 1 pusher propeller
  • Electric motors:  9 electric motors, 8 X 100 hp (8 X 75 kW)
  • Power source: Battery packs
  • Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite or aircraft aluminum or both, 30 ft (9.14 m) length, 28 ft (8.53 m) width (wingspan)
  • Wings: 1 main low main wing with winglets, 2 low booms parallel to the fuselage to hold the 8 VTOL propellers, 1 forward swept canard (or small forewing)
  • Tail: 1 U tail on the ends of the 2 booms, 2 downward angled vertical stabilizers under the rear of the fuselage that connect to the U tail
  • Landing gear: Fixed quadricycle landing struts
  • Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) means having multiple propellers (or electric ducted fans) and multiple electric motors on an aircraft so if one or more propellers (or electric ducted fans) or some electric motors fail, the other working propellers (or electric ducted fans) and electric motors can safely land the aircraft. DEP provides safety through redundancy for passengers or cargo. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft providing safety through redundancy. Having multiple redundant systems on any aircraft decreases having any single point of failure.

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