VTOL – The State of Getting to Net Zero Emissions in Aviation

In this article you’ll learn about the current state of VTOL when it comes to get to net zero emissions. This article is part of a blog series, where we will dive into the following industry sectors and analyze the current state of getting to net zero emissions: General Aviation, VTOL, Business Aviation, Initial Training, Short haul commercial flights and Medium and long haul commercial flights.

Today we’re looking at the VTOL segment, short for Vertical Takeoff and Landing.

VTOL

The vertical takeoff and landing segment has been dominated by helicopters for the last couple of decades with a few notable exceptions in the military segment (The tiltrotor Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey or jet thrust enabled fighters such as the Harrier family or the F-35B Lightning II).

Within the last decade however, countless new players have emerged and the landscape changes rapidly. Most of the new market entries come in the urban air mobility market, a segment which is expected to grow significantly in the coming decaded. Experts from Morgan Stanly estimate the market size to be in the trillions by 2050.

Early projects such as the German company Volocopter started in 2011 and was initially nothing more than a prototype built with a single seat on a bouncy ball and few drone motors (then named e-volo). Volocopter however, made rapid progress within the last couple of years and their most current model slated for air taxi flights, the VoloCity, is capable of carrying two persons. The aircraft features 18 rotors powered by lithium-ion battery packs, swappable in 5 minutes. The max airspeed will be 110km/h and the expected range is 35km. The company aspires to certify the aircraft in the EASA SC-VTOL category enhanced.

VoloCity over London (Rendering, Source: Volocopter)

Volocopter does not plan to curb their ambitions to the urban air mobility segment: With their newest aircraft design named VoloConnect, the company aims to fill the gab between short local flights and the suburbs. The design features 6 vertical rotors and two horizontal, forward facing propulsive fans. The expected payload is 3-4 passengers and the range with today’s battery technology is currently planned to be 100km.

VoloConnect (Rendering, Source: Volocopter)

Additionally, the VoloDrone will be used for unmanned cargo flight and has spiked interest with logistics giants such as DB Logistics and others (Deutsche Bahn, the national railroad company from Germany).

Volocopter serves us as one of many companies trying to capture parts of the urban air mobility market currently dominated by helicopters. With Lilium, the German VTOL capable very light electric jet, Archer, Joby and many others aiming for the sky, the crowded segment simply does not fit into a single article.

It’s currently not sure if all these companies will survive in the long term, even though Lilium, Archer and Joby all became listed companies through a reverse merger with a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) instead of a more traditional IPO (initial public offering). These companies raised a significant amount of cash to further advance their aircraft and to bring them from development into certification and eventually production.

Existing companies, for example Airbus Helicopters, with its next generation of CityAirbus, will be a firm contender in this segment too.

CityAirbus by Airbus
CityAirbus. Source: Airbus

NetZero.aero rating 2021

Segment: VTOL

Outlook of getting to net zero emissions: ***** (5/5).

Comment: We believe it’s possible that this segment reaches net zero or even true zero emissions in the long term future. Long haul and heavy cargo load operations will not be able to go electric but their emissions can be sequestered to reach net zero emissions.

Current state of the whole segment: * (1/5).

Comment: None of the new and established manufacturers have reached certification for any of their new designs as of today.

Overall rating: *** (3/5).

Other posts from this series

See also our previous segment within this series: General Aviation.

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