A French entrepreneur has matured his concept in ten years. It is about opening up cities with the help of a kind of autonomous hydrogen flying taxi. The stakeholder wanted an efficient, accessible solution with minimal environmental impact.
Three key axes
While there are plenty of flying taxi projects, the ones that offer a hydrogen operation are much rarer. In 2018, the Israeli company Urban Aeronautics presented its CityHawk concept. It was a VTOL – Vertical Take Off and Landing. The makers had announced a top speed of 270 km/h, a range of 150 km and a capacity to transport five people. Today there is little news about this project, but Urban Aeronautics announced that first tests for 2021 or 2022. In addition, the first aircraft is to be equipped with two Safran HE Arriel 2N helicopter turbine engines of 1,000 hp each.
In France, a fairly similar project could see the light of day in the near future, as explained by The digital factory in a July 2, 2021 article. There is also talk of a hydrogen-powered VTOL, which combines the flexibility of helicopter-style vertical takeoff and the efficiency of aircraft flight. At the head of the start-up Avioneo in Dijon, Yves Charles says: have worked on three axes. The first concerns the mass of the device, with the aim of obtaining as light a device as possible. The second relates to aerodynamics, inspired by marine mammals. We should also mention the efficiency of the traction chain. The target? Minimize energy loss when converting chemical energy into mechanical energy.
Avioneo is still in the concept phase and just waiting to move on. To ensure that her flying taxi becomes a reality, the person concerned has put forward two important pawns: the joint research project Vita GeoDRONE and the consortium TurboH2. As part of the Vita GeoDRONE project, the goal is to design a device capable of: map the ground up to 120 m use radar. The first step is to build a 1 scale aircraft and place equipment in place of the future passengers that the aircraft can carry in the future. Meanwhile, Avioneo will have to raise the amount of 2.5 million euros to move from the model phase to that of an operational prototype (demonstrator). In the case of the TurboH2 consortium, the teams are working on a multi-fuel turbo generator compatible with hydrogen.
The Avioneo project concerns regional mobility, ie journeys of about fifty kilometers – 20 minutes at 150 km/h. According to Yves Charles, this could make it possible to: “Redeveloping rural areas” et “open up cities”. It is also a matter of writing the concept in a spirit of sharing. The start-up therefore ultimately deploys applications such as Uber or BlablaCar in the air mobility version. While competition for flying taxis is fierce, Avioneo thinks it is first commercial flights from 2025.
Finally, the devices will initially be controlled by humans. However, the ultimate goal is: achieve full autonomysuch as self-driving cars. Yves Charles said the start-up was already working on machine learning. Thus, the transport capacity is two passengers, and three when the device is fully autonomous.