Airborne: Reborn / Volume XXXII / May 22nd 2021
In New Aerospace news this week another eVTOL unicorn was minted in America, a sleek new air taxi design emerged aus Deutschland, there’s a carbon neutral cargo bridge to China and ‘flying baskets’ whizzing up Bavarian mountains - full of trees!
We’ve got space lasers for off-world data storage, Sparrows serving up parcels in British Columbia, British cubesats providing maritime intelligence and new mega-constellation collaborations.
With all that, and much more besides - it's Airborne: Reborn Vol. XXXII.
And remember for just nine more days, you can still:
🚀 WIN A LEGO SPACE SHUTTLE 🛰
Every new subscriber this month has a chance of winning this epic model of NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery (worth over $200).
Use the button below to share Airborne: Reborn with anyone you know who loves Lego / planes / space:
Charles Osborne - Founder
Sam Chandra - Asia-Pacific Lead, Aviation
We’ve long respected Volocopter’s approach to corporate development, highlighting them as an industry frontrunner in the whitepaper on air taxis we co-authored with Lufthansa’s Innovation Hub earlier this year. We weren’t surprised to see them launch their VoloConnect fixed-wing vehicle this week, having suspected for some time that both they and fellow multicopter proponents eHang might be working on such architectures. The ‘easy’ to certify approach of separated lift and cruise propulsors has been emerging as a first-gen air taxi standard ever since Uber Elevate publicly released their Common Reference Models for eVTOL air taxi design - which appear to have been taken offline since the Joby acquisition. (You can look at the evolution of eVTOL design spearheaded by ex-NASA and Uber ‘ninja’ Mark Moore in our post here). What did surprise us a little was that the four-passenger, 100km range vehicle will be remotely piloted. The company aim to certify the striking new aircraft by 2026 (via Volocopter):
BETA Technologies secured a $368m Series A funding round at a $1.4 billion valuation. Headline investors Fidelity and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund were joined by Red Bird Capital. Funds will go towards the ALIA’s certification campaign, hiring, development of ground infrastructure and expanding the company’s physical presence at Burlington International Airport (via Cision, CNBC & Yahoo! Finance).
We noticed both BETA and Amazon using the term Electric Vertical Aircraft or ‘EVA’ to describe the ALIA - more or less likely to catch on than ‘eVTOL’ we wonder? 🤔
Skyports and Kanematsu Corporation will work together on Osaka Prefecture’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) ‘Green Table’ with a view to having an operational passenger vertiport up and running in time for the 2025 World Expo there (via ADS, Skyports).
Vertical Aerospace in the UK snapped up Airbus’ former head of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) in Germany - Eduardo Dominguez Puerta - who joins the Bristol-based outfit as CCO (via ATI). An EASA survey of EU citizens showed 83% have a positive attitude towards drone delivery / air taxis and air ambulances, but have reservations about the safety, security, noise and wildlife impacts. The survey consisted of 40 interviews and an online poll of 4,000 people. Find the full report here, a summary of findings here, detailed responses here and EASA’s UAM page here (EASA, International Airport Review).
Four of South Korea’s largest conglomerates are set to announce a package of US Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth some $35 billion USD - spanning semiconductors, batteries and EV manufacturing capacity - at South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s first summit with President Biden scheduled for May 21st. We suspect it might just include air taxi announcements from Hyundai (via Phnom Phen Post).
🌍 ROAD TO NET-ZERO 🌲 Fractional jet provider Flexjet revealed that they’ve been carbon neutral for the entirety of 2021 in the US and carbon negative in Europe. Their offsetting program is mainly composed of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and preventative deforestation programmes (via AIN). Air Canada and Edmonton International Airport have signed a ‘Sustainability Partnership’ that will see them work together to lower CO2 emissions through a range of initiatives including hydrogen fuel cells, SAF, drone delivery and electrification (via Airport Technology).
🌱 SUSTAINABLE AVIATION FUEL 🛢 US Democrats will put forward a bill that seeks to introduce a $2 / gallon tax incentive for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). In the legislation’s current form producers would earn the cash if their fuel achieved just a 50% reduction on ‘lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions’ vs a kerosene equivalent. It remains to be seen if they can garner bi-partisan support (via Reuters).
Lufthansa Cargo and DB Schenker claim to have been offering “CO2-neutral cargo rotations between Frankfurt and Shanghai” weekly since April. The 777 with the “Flying 100% CO2 neutral” livery (pictured) presumably still burns (mostly/entirely) kerosene? The claim is supported by the company purchasing the equivalent “fuel requirement” of the flights in SAF for use across the fleet. Green-washy nonsense, or a pragmatic step in the right direction? (via Lufthansa Cargo, Transport & Logistics ME):
(London) Oxford Airport is to undergo a significant expansion in order to ‘support existing aircraft and future next-gen aircraft, including eVTOL and hybrid/electric models’ (via Vertical).
✈️ OTHER SUSTAINABLE AVIATION NEWS 🌱 Flight Global published an interesting overview of how legacy engine manufacturers view the exciting “cocktail of possible engine technologies and fuels” that they see as drivers for a more sustainable aviation future (via Flight Global).
🎮 BVLOS 🔭 Brace for incoming acronyms…Longbow Group are working with NASA in Virgina. Specifically with their Langley Research Center (LaRC) - on a concept of operations (ConOps) for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and an associated flight corridor between the former’s City Environment Range Testing for Autonomous Integrated Navigation (CERTAIN) and the latter’s Unmanned Systems Research and Technology Centre (USRTC). The High Density Vertiplex (HDV)…something about AAM…UAM…ok, we give up…as Musk famously told the SpaceX team - Acronyms Seriously Suck (via Aviation Today).
🔍 INSPECTION 📏 ANRA Technologies - the ‘glue between everything’ UAM solutions provider - will be the primary Provider of Services for UAM (or ‘PSU’) for the latest NASA Community Integration project in Ohio. Don’t get us started on the acronyms again NASA… (via sUAS News).
🚜 AGRICULTURE 🚁 Heavy duty drone specialists FlyingBasket helped re-plant 2,000 young trees in the mountains of Bavaria using their FB3 multicopter drones (via Flying Basket, Inside Unmanned Systems):
🚁 DRONE DELIVERY 📦 Drone Delivery Canada bagged their fourth First Nations drone-delivery project, working with Air Canada and the University of British Columbia to deploy Sparrow drones that will take cargo back and forth for the Stellat’en First Nation (via Yahoo! Finance).
South Korean aerospace and defence contractor LIG Nex1 will develop a hydrogen fuel-cell drone capable of delivering 200kg payloads, thanks to a 44-billion-won / $39m USD contract from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. It’ll fly by 2025, likely from the yet-to-be-built national UAM test centre near Gwangju (via The Korea Herald).
Bantec Inc - parent of Drone USA - have acquired a patent for a ‘drone operated delivery receptacle’ capable of autonomously and securely receiving drone deliveries at any installed location (via Cision).
📡🛰🛰 MEGA-CONSTELLATIONS 🛰🛰🛰 Google are the latest service provider to announce a partnership with a mega-constellation. SpaceX will co-locate Starlink base stations with Google data centres to provide low latency cloud services (via SatelliteProMe).
🚀 LAUNCH 🌎
Bill Gates backed Astra signed their first commercial launch contract ahead of a planned $2 billion SPAC listing. The deal with Planet Labs is for a multi-launch mission in 2022 (via Astra, Reuters):
Indian launch start-up Skyroot Aerospace (founded by veterans of the Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO) raised an $11m USD Series A, led by the founders of green energy company Greenko. A further $40m will be needed to get their Vikram-1 rocket - named after Father of the Indian Space Programme Dr Vikram Sarabhai - off the ground (via Mint):
🌔 SPACE TOURISM 🏝
Bids for ‘the first seat’ on Blue Origin’s New Shepard are (at time of writing) up at the $2.8m USD mark. If you fancy a ride above the 100km Kármán line on July 20th, place your bid here before the live auction closes on June 12th (via Blue Origin, India Times):
🪐 OFF-WORLD INDUSTRY 🏭
Munich’s Mynaric will supply their CONDOR laser Optical Inter-Satellite Links (OISLs) to LA-based Cloud Constellation for their ‘SpaceBelt’ LEO satellite constellation. It’ll be used to securely transfer data across spacecraft in the off-world data storage constellation (via Yahoo!):
🌎 EARTH OBSERVATION 👀 Space-based maritime intelligence startup Horizon Technologies in the UK have raised a “multi-million-pound” Series A from Maven Capital Partners and Richard Branson’s Virgin Money, to fund further development of their IOD-3 AMBER signals intelligence (SIGINT) cubesats (together with L3Harris). The first satellite is set to deploy from the ISS after hitching a rideshare on a SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission this August (via Horizon Technologies, Space News).