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⚡️ ELECTRIC ✈️ AVIATION - MARKET UPDATE - 20/10/2021

eVTOL / ADVANCED / URBAN AIR MOBILITY (UAM / AAM)


Californian venture capital fund UP.Partners (run by keen aviators and successful entrepreneurs Cyrus Sigari and Ben Marcus) announced the close of their inaugural $230m USD fund to invest in the future of mobility. The team have attracted big name investors including Toyota subsidiary Woven Capital, ETF investment luminary and ARK Invest founder & CEO Cathie Wood, Alaska Air Group, Standard Industries, real estate developers Hillwood and Norwegian ship managers OSM Maritime. The fund's focus areas include a range of emerging technologies such as drone delivery, eVTOL, SAF, hydrogen powered airliners, charging infrastructure and LIDAR sensors. Existing portfolio companies include Beta Technologies, Skydio and Zipline (via Automotive World, Flying Mag):


Alaska Air Group's reported $15m contribution to the UP.Partners fund (see above) is the first initiative for the group's newly formed Alaska Star Ventures subsidiary (via Alaska Air, BTN, Simple Flying, TechCrunch).

Chinese electric car maker Xpeng's eVTOL subsidiary 'HT Aero' (also known as 'Xpeng Huitian') raised $500m USD of funding - Asia's largest single round in the sector to date. The round was led by IDG Capital, 5Y Capital and Xpeng Inc. Other participating investors included Sequoia China, (investors in DJI) Eastern Bell Capital, GGV Capital (investors in eHang), GL Ventures (investors in LiDAR company Hesai), and Yunfeng Capital - a private equity firm co-founded by Alibaba magnate Jack Ma.


The company's consumer-focused Voyager X2 aircraft is rumoured to use DJI affiliate Livox's LIDAR tech and according to Founder and President Deli Zhao the next generation vehicle will be:

"A fully integrated flying vehicle and automobile, designed for both low-altitude air travel and road driving"

Certainly the parent company's manufacturing footprint and the world-leading electronics supply chain in Guangdong province give the company large strategic levers to pull on, alongside a headcount in the eVTOL subsidiary already rumoured to be over 500 strong. Further details are expected at parent company Xpeng's 'Tech Day' scheduled for October 24th (via BusinessWire, CNBC, Flying Mag, HT Aero, PingWest TechCrunch):


Israeli startup Air's two-seat AIR ONE eVTOL aircraft is now available to pre-order (though there's no pricing confirmed). Designed for personal use the wings fold so it can fit in a standard domestic two-car garage. Powered by eight motors the aircraft has a claimed 100 mile / 160km range and 100mph / 161kph cruise speed. Operating in stealth mode since 2017 the company have flown scaled prototypes to date, with a full-scale vehicle scheduled to fly in 2022 and a certification prototype to follow in 2023 (Source: Air, Yahoo! Life):


Japan Airlines announced a strategic partnership with aircraft leasing company Avolon to develop an eVTOL ride sharing service in Japan that includes the right to purchase / lease 50 of Vertical Aerospace's VA-X4 air taxis, with an option on 50 more (via Avolon, Street Insider).

Skyports signed a partnership agreement with Italy's SEA Milan Airports to investigate the development and operation of a pan-Italian vertiport network (via Aviation 24).

German piston engine manufacturers Red Aircraft GmbH announced that their RED AO3 V12 piston engine (which burns Jet-A1 fuel) was suitable for eVTOL applications, touting its ability to efficiently charge batteries in a serial hybrid configuration and operate at a peak altitude of 50,000ft (Source: Asian Aviation, Red Aircraft):


Volocopter participated in a roundtable event in Osaka 🇯🇵 together with their local partner and investor Japan Airlines. The pair cemented their plans to establish Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operations in the densely populated and industrialised Osaka Bay Area, with pilot operations planned to coincide with the Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai. They also noted the recent reservation by Japan Airlines of 100 VoloDrone / VoloCity aircraft for their own future use (Source: PR Newswire, Volocopter).

eHang's 216 multicopter will reportedly become the first such vehicle to fly in Indonesia next month (Via Temp).

Airspeeder drones were on display at the UAE's GITEX tech conference amid rumours of a race in the company's Exa Series making its way to Dubai. The company's Mk3 speeders were recently shown undergoing 'dual testing' for the first time in Australia (via Airspeeder, The National UAE):


Singapore-based hydrogen-electric aerial mobility business H3 Dynamics closed a $26m USD Series B funding round led by Sparx Asset Management's Mirai Creation fund, with support from the Singapore Economic Development Board's venture arm, Capital Management Group, Grosvenor Group, Audacy Ventures, Ascent Hydrogen Fund and ATEQ. The company's offerings range from hydrogen-electric drones, self-contained (gaseous or liquid) hydrogen propulsion pods, multicopter UAVs right through to plans for passenger aircraft and an upcoming transatlantic test flight. Funds will be used to grow engineering and sales teams in Texas and Toulouse (via AsiaTech Daily, Flying Mag, Morningstar):


BBC News published an article titled 'You may be able to book a flying taxi within three years', in which California's Joby Aviation and the UK's Coventry vertiport project (by Urban Air Port & Hyundai) were both prominently featured (Source: BBC News).

SMALL PROPELLER


Austria's Diamond Aircraft (owned since 2017 by China's Wanfeng Aviation Industry) confirmed plans to offer a fully electrified, single 'engine' eDA40 aircraft. In partnership with Electric Power Systems (suppliers to NASA, and with investment from both Boeing and Safran) it will feature the Utah based company's EPiC battery modules in a belly pod, support DC fast charging and an expected flight time of 90 minutes. Seeking EASA / FAA Part 23 certification by 2023, the product is aimed initially at the flight training market. First flights are planned for Q2 2022 (Via AOPA, Diamond Aircraft):


Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced development of an all-electric version of their proposed Next Generation Basic Trainer (NBT) - the 'Sorigae' or 'Black Kite' - at ADEX in Seoul International Airport. It was reported that KAI are "in discussion with a company in the US which developed an 850 horsepower-grade motor for electric propulsion" as well as looking at both battery and fuel cell suppliers locally and abroad (Via ADN, Janes, KAI):


REGIONAL / COMMUTER


Craft Aerospace founders Axel Radermacher and James Dorris count Blade CFO Rob Lindsay, Uber Elevate alumnus Nikhil Goel and Virgin America stalwart David Pflieger amongst their advisors, but it's their 9 passenger aircraft's unconventional wing configuration and 16 propellers that are getting the most attention. Hyper-extending flaps will apparently generate enough vertical lift for take-off, coupled to "a well-known and highly reliable turboshaft engine" as part of a hybrid setup that'll power the aircraft to 300 knots / 345mph for up to 700-mile regional missions, utilising existing landing infrastructure. Full-scale prototype scheduled to fly 2022, certification by 2025 and production by 2026 (via Craft Aerospace, Yahoo! Life):

A 10,000 sqm Global Technology Centre focused on sustainable aviation R&D opened in Bristol, UK. Jointly funded by GKN Aerospace (£17m GBP) and the British government's Aerospace Technology Institute (£15m GBP) the centre will be staffed up to a capacity of 300 engineers who'll work on hydrogen propulsion technologies, advanced composite structures for electric aircraft and additive manufacturing. The facility has already delivered "fully integrated wings, empennage and electrical wiring interconnect system (EWIS)" for Eviation's Alice aircraft, houses GKN's £54m H2GEAR hydrogen-propulsion development programme and their contribution to the Airbus Wing of Tomorrow (WOT) programme (via Composites World).

UK aviation asset managers / aircraft lessors Amedeo signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Toulouse based AURA AERO for 200 of the company's upcoming Electric Regional Aircraft 'ERA' (via Business Wire):


LARGE PASSENGER / SUSTAINABLE AVIATION FUEL (SAF)


Two US-based companies (supported by the US Air Force's AFWERX and Air Force Energy), claim to have produced the first "fossil free jet fuel" from carbon dioxide electrolysis - they call it 'E-Jet'. The drop-in replacement for petrochemical fuels is a collaboration between Twelve and Emerging Fuels Technology (EFT). They have a licensing agreement signed with Norway's Nordic Electrofuel (via Business Wire, electrek):


Air Canada launched their 'LEAVE LESS Travel Program' - a sustainability programme for corporate customers that involves the purchase of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), carbon off-setting or a combination of the two. Deloitte Canada were announced as the first customer (Via Yahoo! Finance).

The first EasyJet flights to leave the UK with a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) blend in their tanks, departed London Gatwick (LGW / EGKK ) this week - also a first for the airport. The 30% Neste SAF blend (delivered by Q8 Aviation) was produced from:

"100% renewable and sustainable waste and residue raw materials such as used cooking oil and animal fat waste."

A further 39 flights from Gatwick to Glasgow will use the blend throughout the COP26 conference hosted in the city next month (Source: Biofuels News, Business Traveller, Chichester Observer, Gatwick Airport, Neste Q8):


Rolls-Royce's 747 testbed completed a nearly four hour flight from Tuscon, Arizona during which a Trent 1000 engine burned 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) - the three RB211's burned good ol' fashioned jet fuel. The company aims for the Trent engine family to all be compatible with 100% SAF by 2023 . World Energy provided the fuel (via Business Traveller, Rolls-Royce):


Southwest Airlines unveiled a 10-year sustainability plans that included "maintaining carbon neutrality to 2019 levels." The meat of the plan seemed to consist of replacing 10% of jet fuel consumption with SAF, by 2030 (via Nasdaq).