Urban Air Mobility (UAM) startup Airflow introduced its new electric
short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) cargo vehicle concept on Wednesday.
According to the company, the unnamed fixed-wing aircraft will require
less than 150 feet to take off and land and will be capable of
carrying up to 500 pounds of cargo. The single-pilot eSTOL is aimed at
the middle-mile logistics market and is expected to have a range of
250 miles plus reserves.
“The demand for same-day e-commerce continues to rise, and we’re
building a new low-cost aerial capability to enable that growth,” said
Airflow co-founder and CEO Marc Ausman. “Our approach from the
beginning is to focus on a simple aircraft design with well-defined
new technology. In doing so, the team believes development and
certification costs will be approximately $200MM versus more than
$700MM for an eVTOL aircraft, making for more efficient use of
Airflow says it intends to pursue certification for its eSTOL aircraft
under Part 23 regulations. The company is targeting 2025 for the start
of production. Based in California, Airflow was founded in 2019 by a
group of five former members of Airbus’ Vahana eVTOL team. -------------------------------------------------------------
Airflow Launches eSTOL Electric Cargo Aircraft
by Charles Alcock
- June 10, 2020, 7:24 AM
An early concept design for Airflow's eSTOL cargo hauler shows ten
propellers on the leading edge of the wing, plus a pusher propeller at
the rear of the airframe. [Photo: Airflow]
Airflow, a startup launched by five former members of Airbus’s Vahana
eVTOL aircraft development team, today announced plans to build an electric-powered short takeoff and landing aircraft (eSTOL) to be used
for cargo operations. The California-based company said it can get the fixed-wing aircraft into production and certified under FAA Part 23
rules by 2025.
The unnamed aircraft is intended to be operated from short landing
strips of just 300 feet in length. Airflow said it will actually only
require around 150 feet for takeoff.
The company intends to develop what it calls an “aerial logistics
network” for moving cargo between warehouses and distribution points
with so-called “middle mile” trips of between around 50 and 250 miles,
and at speeds of up to around 115 mph. It believes it can provide more efficient freight transportation than trucks.
Initially, Airflow's eSTOL is intended for single-pilot operations and
will be able to carry a payload of 500 pounds in a 90-cu-ft cabin.
Airflow claims that it will be operated at around one-third of the
average hourly cost of a comparable helicopter or one of the new eVTOL
aircraft now under development.
According to co-founder and CEO Marc Ausman, Airflow believes it will
only need around $200 million for development and certification costs.
It estimates that the equivalent amount needed for an eVTOL aircraft
is around $700 million.
The design concept unveiled on June 10 shows 10 propellers on the
leading edge of the wing and a single pusher propeller at the rear of
the fuselage. Airflow is evaluating several different concepts with
the final configuration to be reflected in a full-scale prototype that
is expected to fly around mid-2023.
The company has already conducted some flight trials with a sub-scale
model that it is using to test software developed for the aircraft’s distributed electric propulsion system and also its so-called “virtual tailhook” system to support pilots in making precision approaches to
short runways. Around the middle of 2021, it expects to be ready to
fly a full-scale experimental aircraft that will be used to further
develop the propulsion system.
Initially, the eSTOL aircraft will have a hybrid-electric propulsion
system consisting of electric motors, batteries, and a piston
generator. Ausman told AIN that the company chose to start with hybrid
power because it wants it to be able to operate into locations that
likely won’t have electric recharging capability, at least initially.
According to Airflow, the aircraft will be able to carry significantly
fewer batteries and smaller motors than eVTOL aircraft because its
power requirement for takeoff is around twice that needed for cruise
flight, compared with five times. Ausman said that the purchase price
will likely be comparable to that of a small turbine helicopter, which
he claimed would be significantly less than the anticipated $3- to
$5-million price tag for eVTOL aircraft.
Airflow says it is in discussion with several real estate groups and
expects to make announcements for plans to develop landing facilities
at cargo distribution locations, perhaps even building them on top of warehouses. Later this year, the company intends to announce plans to
raise further investment to support the program.
The company’s business model envisages it securing contracts to
provide air transportation to logistics groups and then subcontracting
aircraft operations to Part 135 charter operators. It is developing an operating system that will track aircraft and their maintenance needs.
The aircraft is being developed for single-pilot operations and
Airflow envisages this role being filled largely by younger pilots
looking to build miles in their logbooks before moving up to airline
jobs. Eventually, it could be operated autonomously but Ausman said
that he feels it could take 15 years to get approval for this in some countries.
In the longer term, Airflow sees potential for the eSTOL to operate
air taxi services. In addition to a single pilot, the aircraft could
be adapted to carry two passengers.
This story comes from the new FutureFlight.aero resource developed by
AIN to provide objective, independent coverage, and analysis of new
aviation technology, including electric aircraft developments. ---------------------------------------------------------
Airflow is building an aerial logistics network to move short-haul
cargo quickly and cost effectively over traffic by utilizing the
unused airspace around cities.
Logistics and e-commerce companies using Airflow can:
* Expand time-sensitive services to more areas
* Offer more SKUs for same-day delivery because goods can be moved
into cities from remote warehouses quickly and inexpensively
*Move goods quickly between warehouses throughout the day and night
* 4x faster than trucks
* 1/3hourly operating cost of a helicopter or eVTOL
* 150feet take-off and landing distance
The need for rapid middle-mile logistics (between 50 - 200 miles) is
growing due to e-commerce growth and increasing road congestion.
Airflow addresses that need.
Trucks add to road congestion and will only get worse as e-commerce
grows. The diagram below shows how cargo moves today between
warehouses (distribution centers) using trucks.
Airflow offers the first aircraft service that can move cargo directly
between warehouses without the use of airports.
Conventional aircraft need airports with runways that are thousands of
feet long. Airflow eSTOL aircraft require only a few hundred feet for
takeoff and landing (about the length of a football field). That means
runways can be built almost anywhere, under existing regulations.
This diagram below shows how Airflow moves cargo quickly and
inexpensively between warehouses, many times throughout the day and
Other use cases include rural delivery, medical supplies to remote
areas, disaster relief, and military applications.
The graphic shows the diversity of areas that are part of the Airflow
network: airports, regional warehouses, local distribution centers,
and remote areas. Avoiding intermediate transfer steps through
Started by five former Airbus Vahana team members with over 60 years
of aerospace experience, Airflow's mission is to expand the benefits
of aviation and bring new capabilities to the industry.
The founding team’s background includes companies like Airbus, Eclipse Aviation, Northrop Grumman, Uber Elevate, Airware, and Scaled
Composites. Most recently, the team worked together on the successful
Airbus Vahana eVTOL program.
Airflow is developing the technology to deliver a commercially viable
solution based on proven principles. The three key technology enablers
are shown below.
Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP)
DEP enables operations into and out of very short runways by providing
more control at slower airspeeds.
A pilot assistance system that provides safe, repeatable landings on
very short runways. It reduces pilot workload and increases safety.
Aerial Operating System
Allows operators to manage aircraft in real-time and integrates fleet
data into scheduling and ERP systems.
Developed with an eye towards future autonomy, the Airflow eSTOL
aircraft carries a pilot with 500 lbs of time-sensitive cargo and can
operate on short runways.
500 lbs cargo
150 ft T/O & land distance
250 cu ft cargo volume
90 mile range + reserves
Part 23 certification basis
Operates in poor weather
Cargo compartment designed for low-density cargo =======================================================================