© David Burton 2021


eVTOL: An electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that uses electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically. This technology came about thanks to major advances in electric propulsion (motors, batteries, electronic controllers) and the growing need for new vehicles for urban air mobility (air taxi).[1]

     Remember the 1997 Movie, “The Fifth Element” starring Bruce Willis? In the twenty-third century, Willis’ character, Korben Dallas, was a taxi driver. His Taxi was a flying taxi. [2]

     Surprise! We may not have to wait until the 23rd century to flag down a flying taxi! Flying taxis may be put into use well before the 23rd century. In fact, there is a very good chance that flying taxis - using eVTOL technology - may be hauling passengers around in this, the 21st century.

     By now, you should be familiar with the small radio-controlled drones that have become ubiquitous in our everyday lives. These are typically very small eVTOLs. Besides capturing awesome videos, these drones are a blast to fly around for fun. Today’s drones are technologically advanced. They can hold position even in strong winds, autonomously follow a target, or respond to gestures from the person being video recorded. They come with sensors that help them avoid obstacles, preventing crashes that were an inevitable part of drone ownership even a few years ago. They come with rechargeable batteries that allow flying for more than an hour-and-a-half on a single charge.

     Today’s small to mid-size drones are already being used by the military for aerial reconnaissance, by TV stations to get aerial views of news stories, by realtors to capture imagery of homes and buildings that they are offering for sale or rental, and even by law enforcement agencies in active crime and terrorism situations. And there are still more applications for these small eVTOLs that are evolving.

     The days when drones were primarily used by the military are long gone. Now, they are an easily available tool that anyone can purchase. With the commercialization of drone technology, their uses have also expanded significantly.
     Numerous businesses have incorporated the use of drones into their workflow. This has led to advancements in drone technology that were unthinkable just a decade ago Here are six unique ways that drones are being used in the world today.

1. Firefighting: One of the most important practical applications of drone technology is its use in firefighting. Drones have become a crucial tool for firefighters, who have found numerous ways to use this new technology. Drones are usually used by firefighters to gather important data, such as: The size of the fire; The heat that the fire is producing; Whether the fire has spread to other buildings; To see if any people have been trapped in the burning structure.
Firefighters also use drones to evaluate damage caused by the fire. This helps with rebuilding efforts and insurance claims.

2. Construction: Drones have many ways of being used in the construction industry. They are used to survey building sites and get an overview of structures. Drones are also an excellent way to have taller buildings inspected. With the use of drones, people no longer have to take up certain dangerous parts of construction—such as the inspection of roofs, or surveying a decrepit building. Before the use of drones, surveys and inspections required scaffolding or the use of harnesses, both of which posed a significant risk to construction workers. With drones, it is possible to save time as well as ensure that safer practices are being followed. Drones are also used in major projects, such as roads, railways, and laying pipelines.

3. Marketing: One really creative use of drones that has gained traction lately is marketing. Drones have helped many businesses to create eye-catching visual content for a relatively low cost. Drones on the market right now come equipped with sensors and peripherals that make it possible for anyone to capture high-quality films and still photos. The GPS and 4K camera in drones can help in creating videos and brochures in multiple industries, such as tourism, real estate, and PR firms.

4. Hobbies: For many people, flying drones has become their new hobby. There are drone enthusiasts who follow any news about drones closely. They may also own one - maybe more - drones themselves. Drones are also commonly used by photographers, both amateur and professional, to take pictures of events and occasions. It has, for example, become a common offering by many wedding photographers.

5. Delivery Service: Delivery by drones has become something of a novelty. The widespread adoption of drones for delivery services is a possibility, and Amazon has already begun making moves in this respect. Numerous other companies are also interested in performing delivery by drone, with Walmart being particularly invested in the technology. Globally, delivery by drones has gained some traction. In Rwanda, drones are being used to deliver essential medical items such as pharmaceutical items, vaccines, and other supplies. In China, SF Express has been granted a license for the use of drones in their delivery service.

6. Conservation Efforts: Drones have proven to be an important tool when it comes to conservation efforts and gathering data about the environment. Drones have been used in many different ways - from monitoring erosion to mapping forest areas to identifying animal species. Researchers and scientists who are involved in conservation projects frequently use drones. Drones are mostly employed in the assessment and management of forests and animals.[3]

     Today, these drones or eVTOLs are being scaled up for additional commercial and military usage. Some of these larger eVTOL vehicles have already been put into commercial use. Most of the civil eVTOL aircraft are designed for urban air mobility. As noted, some are being used for aerial delivery of goods. The Google-owned company Alphabet has been offering an eVTOL UAV delivery service since 2020. Their drones are able to fly more than 50 miles and carry more than 3 pounds of payload.[4] Amazon Air and UPS are two others companies using drone delivery.[4]

     Bruce Willis’ 23rd century air taxi driver, Korben Dallas, would be happy to learn that, here in the year 2021, eVTOL's are being considered for Air Taxi application. For instance, Pipistrel, an Uber Elevate partner, is working on the Pipistrel 801, a 5 seats air taxi.[5] Another example is Volocopter, which has proposed its air taxi service called VoloCity, based on the Volocopter 2X. [6]

     Here in September of the 21st century, there are least 100 energetic startups which believe that urban air mobility vehicles are about to become viable in the next few years. These urban mobility vehicles will be safer, quieter and greener than anything conventional helicopters offer — due to an ingenious twist in the way these vertical takeoff and landing vehicles are designed, powered and fueled.
     That twist? This emerging breed of lithium-battery-powered electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft will be lighter and propelled by small, electric-motor-driven rotors, located strategically around the airframe, collectively providing lift, thrust and vectoring control.
     With the action of these far smaller, lighter rotors choreographed by software, the opportunity exists to greatly simplify rotorcraft flight controls in the short term, and in the very long term move toward fully automated, pilotless eVTOL flight.
     There is no one-size-fits-all here: The eVTOL concept lends itself to myriad aircraft designs with rotors or ducted fans and the number of such “propulsors” varying from four to 36. Each design can be geared to different mission profiles, such as intercity or intracity air taxi flights. Plans are already in place to build the vertiports that the eVTOL revolution will demand.
     Some companies developing eVTOL technology are experiencing feverish investor interest. Driving this interest, in part, are the mind-boggling financial predictions from analysts. Investment bank Morgan Stanley, for example, predicts that the global eVTOL/urban air mobility market will be worth $1 trillion by 2040 and $9 trillion by 2050. And McKinsey, a management consultancy firm, projects that urban air mobility firms worldwide will need to hire and train 60,000 eVTOL pilots by 2028.
     Distributing lift and thrust across multiple propulsors increases redundancy and makes urban air mobility designs safer from the start than conventional helicopters. Because there are so many ways to design eVTOL aircraft, and since some of their components are pretty new to aviation - such as high-power lithium battery packs, electric motors and electric propulsor/wing tilt mechanisms - many have not been flown in safety-critical air applications before, so airworthiness certification may be a more arduous process than for regular aircraft. Companies need to be in this for the long haul because the certification process is going to be long and costly.
     But proponents say that improved safety should be viewed as an almost innate property of most eVTOL formats. By distributing lift and thrust across a number of propulsors on an airframe, eVTOL makers automatically provide a critical safety feature that helicopters lack: propulsor redundancy.
     On a six- or eight-rotor eVTOL, for instance, losing a propulsor would still leave enough lift margin for the aircraft to continue flying to a safe landing. And that would be even more the case on designs with as many as 18 or 36 propulsors, as some eVTOL vendors are proposing.
     On top of this basic, built-in contribution to safety, there is also the safety offered by the utter simplicity of electric motors versus that of the complex turbines and reciprocating engines employed in helicopters. “The true beauty of eVTOL is that these electric motors are very compact, ultrareliable, have one moving part and are amazingly efficient. And once you use them to distribute propulsion, you can distribute thrust and control across the aircraft wherever you want it, very, very nicely.”
     At the EAA Airventure show in Wisconsin in July 2021, Volocopter of Germany flew the Volocopter 2X, a prototype of its planned VoloCity eVTOL, a two-seat, 18-rotor multicopter with a range of 20 miles ( with today’s battery technology). The company’s winged VoloConnect aircraft, which is still in the concept phase, will be a four-seat lift-and-cruise eVTOL with a range of over 60 miles, propelled by six lifting rotors and two ducted fans located on either side of the tail to push it forward.
     Vertical Aerospace, is going for a tiltrotor-based, thrust vectoring design for its VA-X4, a winged, eight-rotor, 100 mile-range eVTOL. The VA-X4 will have four lift-only rotors behind the wing but four tiltable thrusters on the front of the wing that transition from vertical to horizontal flight and vice versa. The firm has major league technology partners, too, in the form of Rolls-Royce, which is supplying its motors, and Honeywell, which is providing eVTOL fly-by-wire control systems.
     At Joby Aviation in Santa Cruz, California, the choice of eVTOL architecture is a fully thrust vectoring machine, with all six of its propulsors tiltable for the lift-to-thrust (and vice versa) transition. Joby’s road to proving airworthiness has for a decade been based on engineering “certifiable solutions” - in consultation with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
     Like most other eVTOL makers, Joby is in no hurry to go autonomous. “The current design of the Joby aircraft is designed to be flown by a pilot, and capabilities like fly-by-wire enhance operational safety. Clearly there is tremendous potential for increased automation and autonomy over the coming years, and Joby is taking a staged approach to that ultimate goal.”[7]

     Getting back to today’s drones, basically, every modern consumer drone is a miniature eVTOL. Those small drones are good at carrying small cargo like cameras or vaccines, but now eVTOLs are getting bigger. Much bigger.
     As startups and established aerospace firms scramble to develop their own aircraft, most eVTOL news these days is focused on fundraising and new partnerships. The technology around eVTOL has been developing almost as quickly as the tech underlying consumer drones - and the money is flowing.
     And just about every major aerospace company has eVTOL plays. This includes but isn’t limited to:
     Airbus: It has its CityAirbus technology demonstrator that first flew in May 2019, and a single-seat autonomous flying craft called the Vahana;
     Boeing: It has an autonomous eVTOL joint venture called Wisk;
     Bell Helicopter: It has a passenger eVTOL called Nexus.
     Thanks to recent advances in materials science, electric motor, and battery technology, electric aircraft are more viable than ever. By combining several electric motors with propellers and large onboard batteries, electric aircraft can safely transport passengers and cargo as far as 150 to 250 miles on a charge, depending on the aircraft and payload requirements.
     The biggest obstacles to passengers flying in eVTOLs are regulatory. To get approval for commercial passenger travel, aircraft manufacturers need to prove to government agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration that their aircraft are incredibly safe. For new aircraft like eVTOLs, this process will likely take many years.
     That said, several eVTOL firms believe they can begin commercial passenger travel as soon as 2024.[8]   DO YOU AGREE WITH THEM?

  1. eVTOL, Wikipedia, Accessed 15 September 2021.
  2. The Fifth Element (1997) Plot, www.imdb.com, Accessed 15 September 2021.
  3. 6 Unique Ways That Drones Are Being Used Today, makeuseof.com, Stefan Ionescu, 20 July 2021.
  4. Alphabet's drone delivery service Wing touches down in Logan, bringing coffee and groceries to doorsteps, 9NEWS, Rachel Baxter, 27 August 2020.
  5. Pipistrel Unveils eVTOL Concept, flyingmag.com, Rob Mark, 10 May 2018.
  6. Volocopter kicks off pre-sales for its first air taxi flights — with a wait time of 2-3 years, techcrunch.com,
    Natasha Lomas, 16 September 2020.
  7. EVTOL Aircrafts – Everything that you need to know, aerospaceexport.com, Accessed 15 September 2021.

  7 October 2021 {Article 496; Suggestions?_62}    
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