Video: eVTOL startup Overair tests propulsion system

21 January 2022

Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft startup Overair Inc. has begun testing its full-scale propulsion system.

The system is being built for its Butterfly eVTOL air taxi, which is expected to carry up to five passengers with more room than a standard airline first class. The company is targeting 2023 for the first flight with commercial operations beginning in 2026.

The propulsion system is a vectored design with speed propellers that allow the Butterfly to safely fly in unforeseen circumstance and bad weather conditions.

"Achieving our full-scale propulsion test goals is an exciting milestone for the Butterfly program" said Jim Orbon, Butterfly program manager at Overair. "Not only does it allow us to validate our design choices and correlate our simulation results to real-world data, but it also proves the team's technical capabilities and ability to execute our development plans. But this milestone is a means to an end. Next stop, full-scale prototype, with long-lead-time parts currently underway."

The vectored thrust design makes the eVROL aerodynamically efficient with large propellers and a high-efficient wing-borne flight for cruising at long distances. Because the propellers can spin slower during various phases of operation — such as transition or cruising — it draws less power from the batteries as well as provides for an overall quieter operation, Overair said.

The test of the propulsion system took place in the Southern California desert to evaluate how the system operates in an environment with demanding aerodynamic conditions. Overair subjected the propulsion system to forces that would be experienced during flight operations in real-world scenarios.

Overair is one of numerous eVTOL startups that are developing air taxis for the future of transportation. The market is heating up as many of these aircraft begin testing prototypes in advance of future operations in the next three to five years.

While the aircraft may be available by this time, consumers may not be ready for in-city or between city flights and regulations still need to be established for safe operations in and around cities that won’t interfere with other aircraft and other flight operations in higher demand. This includes drone delivery that accelerated development in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising consumer interest.

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