by Adrian Venetz
After seven years of development, California-based company Opener recently presented its Blackfly electric airplane. The single-seater has already taken to the air successfully on a test flight. The vehicles are intended to “liberate the public from the restrictions of two-dimensional road travel by opening up a new world of unfeathered three-dimensional flight”, the company writes. It describes its flyers as the heralds of a new era of stress-free travel.
“Vahana” is a project initiated at an Airbus Group innovation center in Silicon Valley. Its goal is the development of an electric, autonomous vertical-ascent and descent plane to open up urban air traffic routes. According to its developers, Vahana is intended as a “cost-effective substitute for local means of transportation like cars or trains.” Initial test flights were completed successfully in early 2018. The great advantage of this autonomous system: There is no need for trained pilots, which means that the frequency of such flights could be increased enormously.
Various projects all over the world are dedicated to civilian aviation at supersonic speeds. The US company Boom Technology is currently working on the XB-1, a plane with a top speed of Mach 2.2 (about 2700 km/h) – almost three times the speed of a modern airliner. The company states that Japan Airlines has already pre-ordered 20 planes. The first batch of production units with about 60 seats each could be ready for delivery in 2023. New technologies and materials are intended to make supersonic flight much more efficient and secure than it was the case with the Concorde (1976 to 2003).
If a train route is used less during certain times, railway operators simply disconnect a few cars to save energy. Would something like this be possible for a plane? Yes, believes a research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The revolutionary air transport concept is called Clip-Air. Capsules are attached to a “naked” plane. The capsules vary in number and size depending on the number of passengers or the amount of cargo. The first prototype, which is the size of a private plane, could be ready in about 10 years.
The Israeli company Eviation Aircraft is developing a fully electric airplane with three electrically powered propellers. The airborne taxi, which is equipped with lithium-ion batteries, is designed to carry 9 passengers for a range of about 1000 kilometers, at a speed of 450 km/h. According to Eviation Aircraft, the plane will stand out for its low operating cost, low noise, and zero emissions. A prototype of the flyer is planned to take to the air as early.