Avionics News October 57-10 - 44

eVTOL AIR VEHICLES
Continued from page 42

Sabrewing Aircraft aims to be first to market with
this capability but is keeping its plans close to the vest
with 50 drones on order from one customer and 15 from
others. The aircraft is in the same price range as a Cessna
SkyCourier. "We can land where they can and where they
can't," De Reyes said. uAvionix, Iris Automation and
Euroavionics are listed as partners on the RG-1 project.
The air taxis flying passengers may not emerge until
after 2030. Andy Thurling, chief technology officer at the
NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research)
nonprofit, said that is what most people reply at urban
air mobility conferences when the organizers ask the
audience to vote on how soon this will happen. NUAIR
has conducted extensive flight tests on a wide range of
drones at the test site in upstate New York approved by
the FAA. Thurling was in charge of unmanned air vehicle
testing for the U.S. Air Force before joining the private
sector.
Mike Blades, an analyst who follows aerospace, defense
and security in the Americas for Frost and Sullivan,
agreed that 2030 is probably a good estimate. "We think
the market for these sorts of unmanned aircraft delivering
cargo is going to happen before the actual urban portion,"
he said. When a natural barrier is involved like a body
of water, it makes even more sense, for example, going
island to island. Going city to city is also likely to
happen before urban area operations begin. There is a lot
more traffic in urban areas requiring more sensors and
redundant systems, and there are obstacles like the need
for infrastructure and liability for property damage. He
added it will be easier to get regulatory approval if a drone
flies the same route every time rather than taking off and
landing in a different place every time.
Uber wants to test next year in Dallas and Los
Angeles, and it is already testing in Dubai and
Singapore, Blades said. He said of the 200 companies
focused on passenger air vehicles that many will go out
of business and maybe 5% to 10% will survive.
Blades said he likes Sabrewing's approach to cargo.
Others competing for cargo business include Elroy Air and
Volansi, a California-based cargo drone delivery service
provider. He believes the Bell and Boeing eVTOLs are
two of the most-promising air vehicle projects.
As a former USAF pilot, Blades said urban air
44

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2020

mobility and cargo are an opportunity for avionics repair
shops. To facilitate entry into this new market, aircraft
manufacturers are going to have to use subsystems that
have already been certified as airworthy. Repair shops
should partner with platform providers and work with
Robotic Skies. "If something goes wrong, you are not
going to take your drone 1,000 miles away but instead to
a local FBO. That is their business model, and it works
the same way with air taxi and air cargo," he said.
While there is some hype in the industry about
timelines, Blades said even if Uber doesn't meet its
initial timeline goals, it has jump-started a whole new
industry. Before Uber Elevate, there were 20 to 30 air taxi
planforms in the works compared to 200 being designed
for passengers now. Air taxis for passengers will initially
be piloted then move to autonomous operations. Thurling
said the pilot has to be dispensed with eventually to make
the business case work for air taxi services.
Robotic Skies has a global network of 200 Part 145
repair shops ready to service unmanned air vehicles used
by flight departments, companies and manufacturers.
Robotic Skies finds the customers, negotiates the rates,
and handles billing and payments to the shops.
Brad Hayden, the chief executive officer, said things
like fly-by-wire mean fewer moving parts, more software
and line replicable units that can be removed and
replaced. He said Part 145 shops are already working on
a lot of complex equipment and have the skills needed to
meet the particular requirements for maintaining systems
in unmanned aircraft.
Robotic Skies is not focused on small drones being
used for small package delivery. Hayden said the General
Aviation Manufacturers Association is working on safety
mitigation that will have to be done to work on electric
and electric-hybrid propulsion systems.
Whatever happens and whenever it happens, everyone
interviewed for this article believes some of these things
are going to happen sooner or later. At the Paris Air
Show in 2019, the chief technology officers of seven
leading aviation manufacturers said, "aviation is at the
dawn of a third major era." This third era follows on
the ones started by the Wright brothers in 1903 and the
jet age of the 1950s and is being driven by several new
technologies. The third major era will include not just
more sustainable large aircraft but also the explosion of
innovation in unmanned air vehicles and new concepts of
operations. q



Avionics News October 57-10

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Avionics News October 57-10

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Avionics News October 57-10 - Intro
Avionics News October 57-10 - No label
Avionics News October 57-10 - Cover2
Avionics News October 57-10 - 1
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