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Safety Standards for EVTOL - Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircrafts

Posted: December 1, 2022

Guest Post by Ashwin K Venkitaraman 

The future of transportation is electric, and this is not only limited to cars. The eVTOL industry is booming, with companies like Uber and Airbus throwing their hats in the ring. But several kinds of safety standards are being put in place for these new aircraft. The eVTOL aircraft industries are on the verge of a boom. The first electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft have been tested in 2018. 

The first aircraft to be certified for use in the US was the Volocopter. This certification was granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 25, 2018. This is a significant step forward in making eVTOLs a viable form of transport. In order to meet FAA standards, eVTOL aircraft must have a low noise level and be able to fly at least 2 miles away from an airport without interfering with commercial air traffic. The first certified eVTOL aircraft in the US was the Volocopter, a German-made two-rotor helicopter. China has the most deployed eVTOLs in their largest cities (Tan et al., 2020). The city with the most deployed eVTOLs is Beijing. Shanghai is second and Guang zhou third, which city has the most eVTOLs does not always equate to the city with the most deployed eVTOLs as there may be more deployments in other cities than deployed in a given city Cape Town, South Africa ,Baghdad, Iraq, Sydney, Australia, Havana, Cuba, Calgary, Canada, Thailand ,Helsinki, Finland, London, United Kingdom. Seattle has the most eVTOLs per capita. City Deployed eVTOLs Total Number of eVTOLs Shanghai 2,066 686 Beijing 803 577 Shenzhen 1,082 461 Guangzhou 936 493 Paris 3,874 419 Amsterdam 2,958 420 Dalian 18 14 Guangzhou 1,581 35 Changsha 734 27 Beijing 803 21.

China is the world leader in the deployment of eVTOLs with a total of 5,046 deployed in 2018. This number includes 1,898 for Shanghai, 2,066 for Beijing and 803 for Shenzhen. The United States is the world leader in a number of airports with over 5000 public airports. the first UK airport for electric aircraft is now announced for Coventry, but on top of this there are various companies such as General Motors, Hyundai, Airbus, and Aston-Martin currently looking at personal air taxis which could take off and land from a rooftop, or even your own driveway. The first eVTOL aircraft were the Japanese Ehang 184 and the Chinese EHang 184, which led to the development of other designs such as Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (AAV), which are designed to fly autonomously instead of being guided by a ground operator or remote pilot. There are two main types of eVTOLs: unmanned and autonomous. Unmanned eVTOLs are used for applications such as cargo transport, deliveries, and aerial photography in which the aircraft may not be piloted or guided directly by a human operator but instead uses a computerized guidance system to navigate autonomously. Autonomous designs have the capability to be piloted, guided, or both (Kraenzler et al., 2019).

UNMANNED: A vehicle that is not piloted, controlled, or guided by a human operator. Examples include cargo transport and aerial photography. AUTONOMOUS: A vehicle that is capable of being piloted, controlled, or guided by a human operator. , but is not so guided at any given time. Such systems might include cruise control, autopilot, or an autonomous car capable of navigating between lanes without human intervention. For the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector, this year was a turning point, with billion-dollar exits, sizable venture transactions, and more partnerships. But in many ways, the previous year may be compared to laying up a chessboard before a game: all the pieces are there.

The safety standards for these new vehicles are not yet set, but there are some requirements that need to be met before they can fly commercially. These include:

  • A maximum weight of 3,000 pounds
  • A maximum speed of 100 mph
  • A maximum altitude of 500 feet
  • A minimum flight distance of 10 miles

The safety standards for eVTOL aircrafts are still in the development phase. The FAA has released a set of guidelines, but they are still not legally binding. Nevertheless, many private companies are eager to jump into this industry. Some of the companies are working on their own development plans, while others are taking the FAA’s guidelines into consideration. For eVTOL aircraft, there aren't any special certifications or safety standards at the moment. As with any aircraft, they must have an airworthiness certificate to demonstrate that they meet the necessary safety standards before being utilized in the public sector.

The development of the eVTOL industry is expected to be one of the fastest growing industries in the next decade. It is estimated that by 2035, there will be more than 10 million electric vertical take-offs and landing aircraft in use.

This analysis seeks to explore the safety standards for these eVTOL aircraft and how they are regulated. There are different safety standards, depending on whether it’s a manned or unmanned aircraft. And for manned aircraft, a pilot qualification is required.

REFERENCES

Kraenzler, M., Schmitt, M., & Stumpf, E. (2019). Conceptual design study on electrical vertical take off and landing aircraft for urban air mobility applications. In AIAA Aviation 2019 Forum (p. 3124).

Pavel, M. D. (2022). Understanding the control characteristics of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for urban air mobility. Aerospace Science and Technology125, 107143.

Tan, C. M. H. (2020). Multidisciplinary Modeling & Simulation Framework for Electric Vertical Take-Off & Landing (eVTOL) Vehicles. Hochschule Esslingen, University of Applied Sciences.

 

Ashwin K Venkitaraman (Ashwin K V) received his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from PES Institute of Technology, Bangalore in 2015. He received his Master of Engineering degree with specialization in Control Systems and Power Electronics from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is currently working as a functional safety engineer at Rivian where he focuses on developing robust safety critical software with adherence to ISO 26262. His interests include control systems, machine learning, advancements in electric and autonomous vehicles. He is an active member of the SAE international Secondary Battery Use Committee and the Hardware-in-the-loop Working group.

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