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Electric flight for everyone

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Electric flight for everyone

Vertical Aerospace is currently building VA-X4 and will fly it later this year

According to Vertical Aerospace, we shouldn’t have to sacrifice the planet we live on to get from A to B, which is why the company says it is working to enable electric flight for everyone. In a Q&A session, Aerospace Manufacturing hears more.

Based in Bristol, one of the world’s top aerospace hubs worldwide and Oxfordshire, the only Formula 1 hub, Vertical Aerospace is all set to become one of the first companies globally to have a certified all-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Q) Where are you with the latest electric aircraft methodologies and are you partnered into any R&D programmes and technology labs?

VA-X4 will be able to carry four passengers and one pilot for 120 miles at cruise speeds of 202mph

Currently we are focused on UAM/AAM, but we have a dedicated R&D team who are exploring different opportunities across the electric aviation market and are taking advantage of the learnings from all of these sectors. Our end goal is sustainable aviation not just eVTOL. In terms of R&D programmes, we are working closely with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), we currently have a ‘live’ smart charger programme with them, and we are also part of the Government’s Future Flight Challenge.

Q) What are you doing to enable even more sophisticated technologies that can work in harsh environments and exhibit the high reliability demanded by the aerospace industry?

We are partnering with the best in the industry to build in the high degrees of reliability required by regulators. Our ties with Formula 1 also allow us to look at best practice there too – for instance advanced composites.

Q) Do you enjoy healthy R&D funding and support from organisations like the ATI?

The ATI is a fantastic organisation and we are working closely with them. We have already had a project approved to develop smart chargers for our aircraft. We can’t confirm any other funding at this time from the ATI due to confidentiality.

Q) What type of battery technology is most suitable in finding the most traction within the aerospace industry?

Li-ion battery technology is among the available proven and production battery technologies. It has the optimum balance of high energy density and power density, which is required for eVTOL applications.

Q) What technological barriers do you overcome in order to get your new battery offerings to market?

Achieving a reasonably lightweight battery solution while meeting the high safety standards of the aerospace industry to achieve certification is the main barrier to overcome. We are also working closely with certification agencies like EASA to over these barriers and are also leading the EUROCAE battery committee.

Q) Aircraft battery technology seems to be a sticking point in terms of weight reduction. Is the technology lagging behind industry demands?

There is a clear indication of steady improvement in battery technology in terms of increasing energy density. Saying that, a lot of weight saving can be achieved by being more clever in the battery architecture design and aircraft integration. Aerospace electrification is relatively new and there is still a lot of room for engineering innovation.

Q) What really differentiates and sets you apart from the competition?

Based in Bristol, Vertical Aerospace is set to become one of the first companies to have a certified all-electric VTOL aircraft

We are credible, we are one of a handful of companies globally to have flown two full-scale, all-electric VTOL aircraft, both with CAA approval. We are also working closely with regulators, for instance we are leading the EUROCAE battery committee.

We combine the rigour and discipline of aerospace with the pace and agility of Formula 1 which allows us to think in different ways. Our location supports this, and with our hubs in Bristol and Oxfordshire, we have fantastic access to the best talent.

We’re not trying to do everything ourselves, and one of our key philosophies is partnering well. For instance, Honeywell is working alongside us to develop our flight control systems.

Q) Is there a particular area of your business that has been hit by the pandemic or is everyone equally affected?

The aerospace industry as a whole has been affected terribly by the pandemic with flight numbers plunging as restrictions limit travel heavily. This has then filtered back to aircraft sales and manufacture.

We have been fortunate to be able to continue working pretty much seamlessly. We are completely cloud-based, which allowed for an easy transition to home working and are as busy as ever working on VA-X4.

Q) What particular aspect has helped your company get through the pandemic?

Our Cloud first strategy and emphasis on SaaS ensures our staff get the same experience at home as they do in the office. When the lockdown was announced, staff simply logged on from home and carried on working as normal.

Q) Do you think companies should be using this pandemic enforced downtime to effectively ‘reset’ and look at how efficiently they are running their businesses?

It’s a great opportunity for businesses to look at this if they have the time and capacity. From our side, we have been working much as we were before and are full steam ahead on VA-X4. It has definitely made us take a look at our working practices and how to best use office time and communicate effectively.

Q) Do you have any ‘good news’ that your company has performed, i.e. manufacturing PPE for the NHS, and are there any positives to come out of all this?

We used our 3D printers to print face shields and mask ear protectors to be distributed to local medical services through a 3D printing group.

Carbon emissions fell during lockdown, in part due to transportation. With this came the realisation that we still have time to reduce our emissions. This has encouraged the move towards a new wave of sustainable aviation.

Q) What kind of industry landscape will we face when everything gets back to normal?

Yes, ‘normal’ is looking like it might be a lot different in future. We think the industry will be a lot more sustainably focused as it grows again.

Q) What are your thoughts about the fact that there won’t be any tradeshows for the foreseeable future?

It has been a good reset in some ways in being able to step back and really look at which shows bring the best value. Although a lot of work can now be conducted online, we believe that there will always be value found in a face to face meeting.

Q) Where to next for your company?

We are at an incredibly exciting time for Vertical. We are currently building VA-X4 and will fly it later this year, remotely piloted firstly but we should have a pilot flying in VA-X4 this year too. From there we will start our certification programme with the intention of certifying by the end of 2024 and starting commercial services shortly afterwards.

Q) Finally, where do you see the biggest business challenge coming from this year?

2021 is the year we are building and flying VA-X4 so there’s a huge amount of work to go into that, but we are prepared and working hard towards this goal.

www.vertical-aerospace.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/electric-flight-for-everyone/

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Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship for its growing fleet

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Virgin Galactic has unveiled the company’s first SpaceShip III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine.

The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term.

VSS Imagine will commence ground testing, with glide flights planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. This third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.

As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The introduction of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.

VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, commented: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight. Congratulations to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantly to achieve this milestone.”

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, added: “Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves. As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships. All great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea. Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”

www.virgingalactic.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/virgin-galactic-unveils-new-spaceship-for-its-growing-fleet/

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

Hexcel has announced its role within the recently launched UK-based project called ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) that will focus on developing high-rate manufacturing and processing technologies that will accelerate the development of new, lightweight advanced composite materials.

The composites company will join lead partner GKN Aerospace and 13 other project stakeholders in a collaboration across the UK supply chain to develop the technologies and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight, more fuel-efficient structures for sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Hexcel will contribute to the ASCEND project framework, developing a new HexPly fast cure prepreg system that will significantly reduce component processing times compared to existing aerospace prepregs.

In addition to its new fast curing prepreg technology, Hexcel’s range of Liquid Composite Moulding (LCM) products will be incorporated into the ASCEND project work packages. The project will use both HiTape advanced unidirectional dry carbon reinforcements and HiMax multiaxial non-crimp fabrics reinforcements.

The ASCEND project will allow Hexcel to collaborate with Tier 1 companies, engineers, tooling specialists, and production equipment OEMs to deliver both prepreg and liquid composite moulding solutions that meet both the performance targets and satisfy the processing requirements for high-rate automated manufacture.

The technical integration enabled by the ASCEND project partnerships will ensure a complete understanding of customer performance and processing needs, coupled with the opportunity to industrialize new technologies utilizing the extensive capabilities of GKN’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

Paul Mackenzie, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Hexcel, said “We are  proud to be part of the ASCEND program, and we look forward to working with other leading companies as we develop processes and materials that help to make the next generation of sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive vehicles possible. This project offers the perfect platform for Hexcel to collaborate and further develop our HexPly, HiMax, and HiTape technologies.”

The ASCEND partners working alongside Hexcel include Assyst Bulmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, DES Composites, FAR-UK, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, The National Composites Centre, Solvay Composite Technologies, Rafinex, and Sigmatex (UK).

Together, the group looks forward to delivering the material and automation innovations that will power more sustainable mobility solutions of the future.

www.hexcel.com

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes extends landing gear kits contract with Magellan

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes division has extended its component supply contract with Canada-based supplier Magellan Aerospace.

Under this long-term contract, Magellan will continue to supply landing gear kits and structural components for Boeing platforms such as the 737, 767, and 777.

The contract extension also shows that Magellan meets Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ cost, quality and performance requirements.

Magellan business development, marketing and contract vice-president Haydn Martin said: “Securing this major business extension for key Boeing platforms is foundational for our New York and Kitchener facilities as the aerospace industry works to recover from the impact of the global pandemic.

“The confidence that Boeing has placed in Magellan is significant and demonstrates our ability to offer our customers comprehensive and reliable solutions.”

For Boeing, the company is using a vertical integration strategy that leverages global resources in Ontario, New York City, and India.

It has also made significant investments across all its facilities regarding manufacturing technology and the workforce to enhance its competitiveness worldwide.

Magellan will deliver these kits and hardware from its facilities in Kitchener, Ontario and New York City, New York. The company will also produce an extra supply of kits to reduce production risk.

Deliveries will be made directly to Boeing’s assembly facilities in Renton and Everett, Washington, US.

Last month, Magellan signed a five-year renewal agreement with Avio Aero to supply magnesium and aluminium castings.

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/boeing-commercial-aircraft-magellan/

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Aerospace

ZeroAvia raises new funding for hydrogen-electric engine development

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Zero-emission aviation firm ZeroAvia has raised $24.3m in new funding to support the development of a 2MW hydrogen-electric engine.

Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures, an existing investor, led the latest funding round and was joined by new investor British Airways.

Other investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ, also joined the financing.

The financing takes the company’s total private investment to more than $53m while the total funding raised is close to $74m since its formation.

ZeroAvia’s funding comes a few months after the UK Government, through the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and Innovate UK, announced a $16.3m (£12.3m) grant to deliver a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft in the market by 2023.

The new funding will accelerate the hydrogen-electric powertrain development for a ten to 20-seater regional aircraft.

ZeroAvia aims to commercialise the engine as early as 2024. The company aims to enter the more than 50-seater commercial aircraft segment by 2026.

The funding will also de-risk the company ambition to power a 100-seat single-aisle aircraft by 2030.

ZeroAvia CEO and founder Val Miftakhov said: “This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale.

“With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.”

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/zeroavia-electric-raising-funds/

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