Vertical Aerospace
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Rolls-Royce to Power All-Electric Air Taxi

March 9, 2021
Rolls-Royce Electrical will design the electric-propulsion system architecture for the Vertical Aerospace VA-X4, including 100kW-class lift and push units, power distribution, and monitoring system.

Rolls-Royce is set to develop and supply an electrical system to power the VA-X4 all-electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle being developed by Vertical Aerospace, a British developer. The Rolls-VA partnership was announced without a budget, but the eVTOL is scheduled to be certified by 2024 and in commercial service soon thereafter, carrying up to four passengers at speeds over 200 mph.

Rolls-Royce Electrical will design the VA-X4 electric-propulsion system architecture, including its 100kW-class lift and push electrical propulsion units, power distribution, and monitoring system that will support operations. Rolls called its first commercial deal in the urban-air mobility (UAM) market “a key collaboration,” building on some previous demonstrator programs.

Rolls reported it will assign about 150 engineers based in countries including in the U.K., U.S., Germany and Hungary to work with the Vertical Aerospace team on developing the aircraft.

The VA-X4 was introduced in August 2020 as a new concept from Vertical Aerospace, which previously had developed several VTOL or “air taxi” concepts. The aircraft is designed to be 13 meters long with a 15-m wingspan, incorporating a distributed propulsion system, fly-by-wire flight control systems, and powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Vertical Aerospace previously aligned with Honeywell to supply flight control technology and a vehicle-management system for the prototype, and with chemical manufacturer Solvay to develop composite materials for the aircraft.

The developer has already flown multiple full-scale eVTOL prototypes, according to Rolls-Royce, and construction of VA-X4 will begin soon -- with the first flight scheduled this year.

Last August, Vertical Aerospace said its goal is to make the eVTOL “significantly cheaper than helicopter flights, removing one of the major barriers to environmentally friendly air travel.”  UAM or air taxi services have emerged as an area of development for alternative-fuel aerospace research, with an apparent commercial market in congested cities and a simultaneous appeal to carbon-neutral technology.

“This exciting opportunity demonstrates our ambitions to be a leading supplier of sustainable, complete power systems for the new Urban Air Mobility market which has the potential to transform the way that people and freight move from city to city,” stated Rob Watson, director – Rolls-Royce Electrical.