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Volume XXXI - May 9th 2021

Airborne: Reborn / Volume XXXI / May 9th 2021

In Vol. XXXI of Airborne: Reborn we have Chinese media reporting on German tie- ups, a real life manned eVTOL, UAM agreements and listings in America and a task force in Korea.

Airlines are announcing net zero in South America, boundaries are being pushed back in India, electric components are coming to life, Danish domestic flights are becoming more sustainable and questions are being asked about carbon credits.

In UAV news we see another mega-grocer try drone deliveries, India swiftly activating BVLOS in a BIG way, UTM being deployed in the UK, Australia pouring money into life-saving and Korea getting into the hydrogen game.

Space sees another SPAC, SpaceX pin two big achievements, lunar ambitions firm up in the Middle East / Japan, there are more millions for little rockets and satcom contracts for the Arctic.

Aaaaaand remember, you can still:


We’re running our giveaway throughout May - every new subscriber this month has a chance of winning this epic model of NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery (worth over $200).

Tell your friends, family, colleagues - anyone you think might like the Lego and a free weekly update on the future of flight:

Charles Osborne - Founder

Sam Chandra - Asia-Pacific Lead, Aviation


Beta’s ALIA aircraft is the first eVTOL to receive manned flight approval from the US Air Force. As part of the Agility Prime programme, the Air Force will have access to the aircraft and Beta’s simulators from June (via Aviation Today):

Korean Air have formed an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) task force and are expected to seek partners that complement their air transport, manufacturing and maintenance assets / experience (via Korea Times).

Blade completed their SPAC merger, so when markets open in the morning anyone can buy shares in “the first publicly traded urban air mobility company.” (NASDAQ tickers ‘BLDE’ & ‘BLDEW’). The company also signed a contract for 30 of Wisk’s air taxis this week - ‘sixth generationCora test aircraft to be precise. Currently Blade’s network utilises a mix of conventional helicopters and fixed wing aircraft (via AIN, Yahoo! Finance):

Chinese media are reporting on the JV between Geely Group and Volocopter that we reported on in Vol. XXII in Feb (via China Knowledge).

Dallas-based Jaunt Air Mobility revealed this week that they’ll be setting up design and manufacturing operations not in Texas, but in Canada’s Québec Province. Operations there will be headed by Soucy and Bombardier veteran Eric Côté (via Jaunt, sUAS News).


🌍 ROAD TO NET-ZERO 🌲 LATAM Group became the latest airline to announce a target of carbon neutrality by 2050 (via AirlineGeeks).

Delhi Airport hit a milestone - with over 1,000 departures having pushed back from the gate without the aircraft having to use their engines, thanks to Israeli TaxiBot. Their system allows pilots to control a tug from the cockpit. It’s already saved 532 tonnes of CO2 emissions and will help the airport towards their goal of net zero by 2030 (via Simple Flying):

Over the next few years Japan Airlines (JAL) will transition to using the Airbus A350 as their flagship. It’ll largely replace Boeing 777s and, by JAL’s calculations, be about 25% more fuel efficient in operation. Further CO2 reductions will result from downsizing the fleet and having fewer large aircraft. More details on the firm’s strategy to achieve net zero by 2050 can be found in the ESG section of their Medium-Term Management Plan here (via JAL, Simple Flying).

🅷 HYDROGEN ₂ The hydrogen powered aircraft market is expected to reach a value of $27 billion by 2030 and $174 billion by 2040 according to Chairman of Avia Solutions Group - Gediminas Ziemelis (via Cision).

🔋 BATTERY-ELECTRIC ⚡️ French light aircraft manufacturer AURA AERO are partnering with engineering and R&D consultants AKKA Technologies on development of a 19-seat Electric Regional Aircraft (ERA) and the single seat INTEGRAL-E race machine. With possible legislation banning fossil-fuelled regional flights in France, the race…is…on! (via AKKA).

Safran are working with Bye Aerospace to bring a solar panel option to their eFlyer 800, the next gen ‘King Air replacement’ announced last month (via eeNews Europe).

🌱 SUSTAINABLE AVIATION FUEL (SAF) 🛢 Munich Airport have completed systems testing and will be offering sustainable kerosene from June (via Future Travel Experience).

Alsie Express became the first operator of a domestic flight route in Denmark to consistently use a SAF-kerosense blend - they estimate a 4% reduction in emissions on their flights between Sonderborg and Copenhagen, in collaboration with Danfoss and Sonderborg Airport. The SAF will be supplied by DCC and Shell (via Biofuels International, Green Car Congress).

✈️ OTHER SUSTAINABLE AVIATION NEWS 🌱 Wright Electric have started testing an inverter capable of being used in megawatt-class aircraft - think A320 / 737 size (via Green Car Congress).

Shock horror; carbon credits might not actually be getting airlines towards neutrality 😱. Who’d have thought? This piece by the Guardian, Greenpeace & Source Material sheds new light on some shaky foundations…

Airbus, Rolls-Royce and EasyJet were the big names at a Bristol Airport talk-fest on how to move towards clean aviation. Other attendees included Universal Hydrogen, GKN and Vertical Aerospace (via Business Live).


🚁 DRONE DELIVERY 📦 Kroger (the world’s fifth largest retailer w/ 2019 revenues of $121 billion) are conducting a drone delivery trial near their Ohio headquarters. Partnering with Drone Express - a unit of Telegrid Technologies, they hope to (amongst other things) “enable cookout supplies to be sent directly to a park in as little as 15 minutes” (via Crain’s Cleveland Business).

🦠 COVID-19 😷 / 🎮 BVLOS 🔭 The Ministry of Civil Aviation of India has granted authority for experimental BVLOS flights for a year in order to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. The permission applies to the Telangana region and an estimated 20 operators will be making use of the exemption (via Live Mint, OPIndia).

🚗 TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT 👩‍💻 Altitude Angel are rolling out their Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform - Guardian UTM Enterprise for the first time - at Cranfield Airport. It will enable users of the ‘research airport’ to request flight authorisations digitally on mobile or web apps (via Cranfield & Marston Vale Chronicle).

OTHER DRONE NEWS Surf Life Saving Queensland made an undisclosed investment into the newly formed Ripper Corporation. The two entities have a long-standing partnership that’s seen them use drones for observation and surf life-saving operations (via sUAS News):

An “Aerotropolis” is being established just south of Detroit. Having deployed Airspace Link’s airspace management platform overhead four counties, the consortium are partnering with Michigan’s established automotive industry and inviting companies to join them on a 6,000 acre green field site (via Click On Detroit).

South Korean Gas supplier SK E&S will be moving into the drone space, partnering with EXENS and Hylium Industries to develop liquid-hydrogen fuelled technology for the sector (via Korea IT Times):

Transport Canada became the latest body to form their own ‘Drone Advisory Committee’ (via DroneDJ).


Our crawlers picked up this interesting opinion piece on the pressures facing China’s commercial space sector (via East Asia Forum).

🚀 LAUNCH 🌎 It turns out that just two of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have taken 48% of Starlink satellites into orbit (there are 1,500+ up there now). This is thanks to the fact they have each flown nine times (via CNET):

EDIT - make that ten…they launch rockets as fast as we write newsletters:

Oh, and they also landed their latest starship prototype, having taken it up 10km on a test flight…with no subsequent 💥:

Virgin Orbit continue to build out their launch infrastructure; selecting Added Value Solutions (AVS) in the UK to procure their Transportable Ground Operating System (TGOS) which helps prep the rockets for flight before each launch from Spaceport Cornwall. Meanwhile their next flight is scheduled to deploy six satellites into a 500km orbit from Mojave next month (via Space Daily, Space News).

Austin-based rocket start-up Firefly Aerospace finalised a $75 million Series A led by DADA Holdings and with participation by Astera Institute, Canon Ball LLC, Reuben Brothers Limited, SMS Capital Investment LLC, XBTO Ventures and others. Buoyed by the capital injection CEO Tom Markusic asserted that;“…as long as we do our job, I’m confident we will be a multibillion-dollar company by the end of this year.” They’re expecting to raise another $300m soon and are ‘SPAC-flirting’. Markusic mightn’t be too far off the money - rivals Rocket Lab are soon to go public with a $4.1 billion valuation (via Reuters).

🌕 MOON MUSINGS 👩‍🚀 NASA have ordered SpaceX to ‘hold fire’ on the recently awarded lunar lander contract, in response to the protests made by Blue Origin and Dynetics. The crux of the protests NASA said they would choose two landers. NASA’s (paraphrased) response? SpaceX know what they are doing…and they’re cheap (via Universe Today).

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have selected Japan’s iSpace to provide a payload delivery solution for their “Rashid” lunar rover. iSpace are subsequently contracting SpaceX to launch the “HAKUTO-Rlander from Florida, sometime in 2022. The mission will mark both the first time an Arab nation has sent hardware to the lunar surface and the first time iSpace has been…in space! (via iSpace):

Meanwhile NASA’s new ‘top dog’ - 78-year old Sen. Bill Nelson, who flew on Columbia in 1986 - was a little coy about getting US boots on lunar soil by 2024, in his first interview since taking office. Climate change is however, encouragingly, right at the top of his priority list (via AP, Los Angeles Times).

🛰🛰🛰 MEGA-CONSTELLATIONS 🛰🛰🛰 Another 36 OneWeb satellites were launched from Russia’s Vostochny spaceport, in the same week the company picked up a contract from the US Air Force Research Lab to provide satcom services to sites in the Arctic, together with Hughes Network Systems (via OneWeb, PR Newswire, TASS):


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