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Another European eVTOL startup is delaying launch amid certification hurdles

If, like me, you’ve been waiting for the day when urban sprawls begin to resemble your favorite sci-fi scene with flying taxis riding in silent rows high among the skyscrapers, then it seems you may just have to wait a little longer.

Bristol-based Urban Air Mobility (UAM) startup Vertical Aerospace is the latest in a long line to announce the (second) entry delay of its aircraft, the VX4. The company has told investors it is now targeting UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) certification by the end of 2026 – two years later than the original timeline.

Getting dates to get the first electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL) certified has always been a gamble. Most of the companies developing these zero-emission “air taxis” are aerospace start-ups (albeit backed by established OEM partners) with little to no experience with the actual required aircraft certification process.

As acknowledged by Vertical CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick in a letter to investors seen by the Financial Times, “Trying to predict with certainty a date that will be several years from now is challenging and achieving it depends on new technology agreement methods with authorities.”

Problems with the first mover

Spanning the axis of innovation and sustainability, eVTOL technology has the potential to revolutionize urban and regional mobility for both passengers and freight. However, with new technologies come new legal requirements. This is especially true for the fully autonomous aircraft that are expected to hit the market in about ten years.

a Morgan Stanley report in 2019 predicted that the global eVTOL market would grow to $1.5 trillion by 2040. Two years later, the figure was reduced to $1 trillion. However, the company estimates that the market will reach as much as $9 trillion by 2050.

In addition, the report acknowledged that the industry’s first movers had to brave a “regulatory Mount Everest” before putting their plane into service.

It’s not that Vertical hasn’t been pioneering the industry; the company has been flying full-scale prototypes for the past four years. In March, it received what’s known as a Design Organization Approval (DOA) from the CAA — the first time a regulatory body has awarded one to an eVTOL maker.

And there are many customers eagerly awaiting a dent in net zero commitments; Vertical Aerospace has a pre-order book of 1,400 aircraft. Potential customers of the four-passenger, one-pilot VX4 include American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as Irish aircraft leasing giant Avolon.

Who will actually market it?

Currently, there are about 500 electric vertical takeoff and landing developers worldwide. The market is concentrated in North America (with the notable exception of Embraer in Brazil), Europe and Asia.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have taken slightly different approaches to certifying eVTOL. The FAA has updated its existing aircraft certification framework, while the EU has developed draft regulations and a new eVTOL certification framework. The British CAA announced in June last year that it would use the same standards as those of EASA.

Both approaches seem to have the same impact on many manufacturers’ timelines. In the US, notable new developers such as Joby Aviation and Archer first announced the go-live date as 2024, but recently pushed it back to 2025.

from Brazil Veteran aircraft maker Embraer has taken a more conservative approach, stating that it will ship its EVE eVTOL to customers in 2026. aviation giant Airbus has had to postpone the first flight of its CityBus NextGen prototype until 2024, a year later than planned when announcing the project in 2021.

Nevertheless, there are developers who are still optimistic about their original plans. Germany’s Volocopter is firmly convinced that it will have its aircraft certified in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. However, its compatriot Lilium (differentiating itself from other companies by developing an eVTOL jet) has revised its early estimate of 2024 postponed by a year.

Meanwhile, Lilium has begun wind tunnel testing of a 40% scale prototype at a joint German-Dutch facility in the Netherlands, having secured a new round of funding in early May.

Most likely, as predicted by Morgan Stanley, the first movers will have the biggest regulatory mountain to climb. Perhaps the post-peak UAM revolution will really kick in, and we can all take a quiet, zero-emissions ride and reminisce about the time we used to waste in noisy, polluting traffic jams.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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