Airbus presents its next-generation fully electric CityAirbus eVTOL

Together with the official opening of its new test center in Donauwörth, Germany, Airbus Helicopters presented last week the prototype of its fully electric CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL, a four-seater with eight propellors that takes off and lands vertically.

Once airborne, the two-ton so-called ‘multicopter’ tilts its rotors to fly like an airplane for some 80 km at a cruising speed of 120 km/hour. After completing over 240 tests with them, it’s the successor to the first CityAirbus and the Vahanna eVTOL prototypes. The next-generation program was launched in 2021 and will be used for the remaining tests required before the prototype’s maiden flight later this year.

Dedicated eVTOL test center

The Bavarian test center in Donauwörth is dedicated to eVTOL testing and is part of Airbus’ long-term investment in Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). In Bavaria, Airbus partners with over 30 organizations, tech companies, universities, and the government in the ‘Air Mobility Initiative’ (AMI) to develop and test a complete urban air mobility ecosystem with vertiports.

Airbus began operations with the CityAirbus NextGen’s power-on in December 2023. It will further test the electric motors with eight rotors and the aircraft’s other systems, flight controls, and avionics. Apart from the main hangar, the test center includes separate rooms for subsystem testing.

Quiet as a washing machine

The CityAirbus NextGen, with a wing span of approximately 12 meters, has six rotors mounted on the wings and two mounted on the rear horizontal stabilizer. It’s designed with quiet flights in mind from the beginning, Airbus says, allowing for smooth integration and use in urban environments.

The CityAirbus is designed to fly fully automatic, transporting four passengers in the future, but will be piloted by a human to start /Airbus

It should make no more noise than 70 dB during takeoff and 65 dB during flight. That’s comparable to the noise of a regular washing machine or a crowded restaurant. For now, a human pilot will be required to operate the eVTOL, which has room for three passengers.

However, Airbus says it’s designed with a fully operational automated flight mode in mind once the urban air mobility market has matured. Final approval and the start of commercial flying aren’t expected before 2025.

Airbus isn’t the only aircraft manufacturer working on eVTOLS; some early start-ups are already way ahead. German Velocopter has received approval from the German Federal Aviation Office (Luftfahrtbundesamt or LBA) to actually start production of its VoloCity aircraft at the end of February 2024 and certification that allows Volocopter to train pilots for its future products.


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