Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing or eVTOL aircraft herald perhaps the most significant development in aviation since the advent of the 'Jet Age'.
As NASA worked on Distributed Electric Propulsion demonstrators (DEP) electric multi-copter drones surged in popularity worldwide and electric vehicle companies continued to push battery and sensor technology to new heights.
This confluence of technologies has led dozens of companies to design and seek certification for larger eVTOL aircraft capable of carrying both cargo and passengers. With hundreds of billions in capital deployed by large industrial companies, Silicon Valley technologists and Venture Capital funds worldwide we're sure to see the first eVTOL aircraft certified for piloted operations somewhere in the world in 2020.
Work with us as we monitor this exciting new suite of technologies and see who's most likely to win the eVTOL race.
Whilst eVTOL aircraft seem set to revolutionise the movement of people and packages over distances up to c. 300km, current battery technology seems to lack the energy density required for medium and long-haul airliners to go electric immediately.
As with ground-based transportation hybrid powertrains are likely to bridge the gap between a fossil-fuel powered present and an all-electric future. The likes of Rolls-Royce have pioneered this approach in other industries for years and we're likely to see turbine generators powering electric propulsors in aircraft soon, as we've seen
in ships for some time.
The challenge for the aviation industry is to decouple flying from carbon emissions as the industry's impact on the environment is increasingly in the public eye - for long-haul passenger and cargo flights especially hybrid technologies are likely to be the gateway towards carbon neutrality as short-haul flights go fully electric and can be powered by electricity generated from renewable sources.
Almost every airline pilot started their flying career in a small fixed wing aircraft, most likely a Cessna 172 or something similar, at a flying school likely to be located on a small airfield filled with General Aviation (GA) aircraft.
Often overlooked as fights for control over airspace abound and property developers eye up large sites of open space for building houses and business parks, general aviation airfields and aircraft are an essential part of a healthy aviation ecosystem.
With noise complaints a constant problem and the price and carbon emissions from AvGas eroding the affordability and public acceptance of GA, electric propulsion seems like it might be the answer to many of these problems. Quieter than a piston engine and with the promise of more affordable and simple maintenance, electric training aircraft like Pipistrel's Alpha Electro also don't suffer from range anxiety as most of their activity is limited to circuit training - the time of the electric GA trainer has surely come?