Airbus Unveils an All-Electric, Remotely Piloted Aircraft
Dec 16, 2021
NextGen, a new remotely piloted aircraft, was announced by Airbus in late 2021. This fledgling design aims to fill the market gap of short trips in urban areas.
Airbus Introduces New Multicopter Concept
The CityAirbus NextGen is, in the simplest terms, an autonomous flying taxi. While this project has been in production for several years, the end goal looks to make pilotless aircraft mainstream. Part of the prototype plans includes an operational app for passengers for an experience similar to Lyft.
The existing design can accommodate four people. For now, this will be a pilot and three passengers as the initial stages of NextGen will remain piloted. In the future, the goalpost is set to pilotless flights.
The new NextGen is designed with fixed wings, a V-shaped tail, and eight ducted propellers that are electrically powered. The tilt-wing design of the aircraft results in better cruise performance with less energy consumption.
This new aircraft will be able to fly with a 50-mile range with a cruising speed of 75 mph. To limit sound levels the NextGen is designed to have sound levels below 65dB(A). This goes to below 70 dB(A) during landings. Because of its design and performance, this aircraft is well-suited for operations within cities.
A focus on sound levels in particular was made to help gain public acceptance. The noise-friendly design of NextGen will make the aircraft more easily integrated into use in urban areas.
Safety & Reliability
Complying with safety standards is a high priority of Airbus which is why CityAirbus NextGen has earned the highest certification requirement. While the design is meant to be pilotless in the future, during the maturation of the Urban Air Mobility market, this aircraft will be piloted.
Airbus isn’t the first and only to make steps toward urban mobility with aircraft. Compared to other prototypes from competitors, Airbus’s biggest drawback is its limited range and lower capacity. Joby Aviation, for example, is working on a prototype that will be able to carry five people total, including the pilot.
Airbus has marked the NextGen as a “starting point” that is “designed to grow”. In fact, while air taxi operations are a goal on the horizon, the aircraft will first be marketed toward tourism, shuttling, and emergency services.
The Future of eVTOL Aircraft
The NextGen CityAirbus isn’t the only eVTOL aircraft in development. Project Vahana, launched 2016, is another self-piloted, all-electric aircraft. With a planned first flight in 2023, Airbus’s NextGen is one of many prototypes in development. Other companies, like Volocopter and Embraer, are having similar electric-powered aircraft in development.
The overarching goal is both to improve the environment and to tackle the issue of urban traffic congestion.
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