10 eVTOL Development Programs to Watch in 2021

A list with the latest program developments for some of the top eVTOL aircraft makers in the world right now.

The last 12 months have featured some of the fastest moving technological innovation, regulatory, and partnership advancements toward enabling a future urban air mobility ecosystem where electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxis will one day fly new purpose-driven mission sets across a variety of civilian and defense operations.

Considering the rapid pace that the companies building the actual vehicles, or air taxis that are to serve these mission sets over the last year, some have emerged as closer to making eVTOLs that were mostly computer-generated three-dimensional concepts and drawings a few years ago into a reality by the mid to late 2020s. In this article, we selected 10 companies that are developing VTOL aircraft that are all-electric, hybrid, and gas-powered with a plan in place for future alternative sources of electric power.

While there is no ranking order to the list, all of these companies are highlighted based on achieving recent major regulatory, technological or business-related program milestones associated with the VTOL vehicle that they're developing.

Tell us who we missed in the comments!

Joby Aviation (Marina, California)

Joby Aviation is a California-based aerospace company that is developing and commercializing all-electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, designated by the FAA as the S4.Joby Aviation

eVTOL: The S-4

Range: 150 miles

Cruise Speed: 200 mph

Power: Six electric motors

Seating: One pilot and four passengers.

Latest Program Developments: Joby has established a new certification agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration for its S-4 all-electric air taxi, a major step toward the company's goal of operating the aircraft commercially by the mid-2020s. The S-4 was also awarded military airworthiness approval in December 2020. A civilian version of the aircraft will be certified using the FAA’s Part 23 requirements with the special conditions listed in the G1 added to account for the unique nature of the aircraft. Details about the conditions within the G1 agreement have not been released and are expected to be published by the FAA later in 2021. Joby is projecting a 2024 commercial entry into service for its eVTOL.

Jaunt Air Mobility (Dallas, Texas)

Jaunt Air Mobility's Journey air taxi. Jaunt Air Mobility

eVTOL Program: Journey

Range: 80 miles

Cruise Speed: 175 mph

Seating Capacity: One pilot, four passengers

Latest Program Developments: Jaunt Air Mobility was involved in a series of industry partnerships over the last year designed to help acquire the aircraft components and infrastructure elements necessary to enable a future UAM ecosystem that allows its Journey air taxi to perform several civilian applications ranging from passenger services to medical evacuation operations. The largest of these recent partnerships is the one established with Varon Vehicles Corp. to develop new "Vertiports" in various Latin American countries, starting with Colombia. Throughout 2021, Jaunt Air Mobility will work with Varon Vehicles to understand the unique transportation needs in Latin American cities and will help define the operations and integration of its Journey aircraft into service. This will kickstart the building blocks necessary for the early demonstration of the Jaunt Journey aircraft and Varon Vehicles’ operational vision. Jaunt is targeting 2026 for full-rate production of its air taxi.

Archer Aviation (Palo Alto Airport, California)

Archer Aviation

eVTOL Program: Unnamed

Range: 60 miles

Cruise Speed: 150 mph

Power: Battery-electric tilt rotor

Seating: One pilot, four passengers

Latest Program Developments: The only publicly available images of Archer Aviation's aircraft are sleek outlines of a dark exterior with six rotors affixed to a long wingspan sticking out of both sides of a small futuristic-looking one-panel fuselage. Archer was given a major boost of confidence on Feb. 10 by completing an agreement with United Airlines committing to a future purchase of 200 electric aircraft produced by Archer. Once the aircraft is in operation and has met United's operating and business requirements, United, together with Mesa Airlines, would acquire a fleet of up to 200 of these electric aircraft that would be operated by a partner, according to United. Archer also recently announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler to utilize the companies low-cost supply chain to accelerate the production of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft. Archer is projecting a 2024 entry into service for its air taxi.

Volocopter (Bruschal, Germany)

Volocopter is anticipating type certification for its VoloCity air taxi in the U.S. very soon, after already holding an EASA Design Organization Approval (DOA) for the last year. Volocopter

eVTOL: VoloCity

Range: 22 miles

Cruise Speed: 68 mph

Power: Nine lithium-ion battery packs, brushless DC electric motor, 18 rotors

Seating: Two passengers, with room for hand luggage.

Latest Program Developments: Volocopter is the only eVTOL developer that has received design organization approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Organization (EASA) and is on the verge of receiving certification for its VoloCity air taxi. Between 2018-2020, the company conducted public demonstration flights of its aircraft in Stuttgart, Germany, and Singapore's Marina Bay. In September, during an appearance at Berlin's Greentech Festival, Volocopter launched 15-minute flights on its air taxi for €300, which can be reserved for €30 that can be redeemed within the first 12 months of commercial launch. The German company has not committed to a firm timeline but expects to launch commercial services using VoloCity within the next few years. Volocopter is anticipating a 2024-2025 launch for its first commercial VoloCity flights.

Lilium (Munich, Germany)

The Lilium Jet's primary structures such as the fuselage, wings and flaps are being made from carbon fiber due to the material's weight, strength and fabrication flexibility, according to a September Facebook post from the company. Lilium

eVTOL: The Lilium Jet

Range: 186 miles.

Cruise Speed: 186 mph

Power: 36 electric motors powered by a 1 MW lithium-ion battery.

Seating: One pilot, four passengers

Latest Program Developments: Under a new agreement established in November 2020 with Tavistock Development Company, Lilium is developing a new electric air mobility network in Lake Nona, Florida. Lilium and Tavistock have a partnership with the City of Orlando to deploy the new network, with a location that was selected based on its proximity to Orlando International Airport. Lilium specifically described its new concept of operations as a "high-speed electric air mobility network" in their release, emphasizing the significance of the need for electric infrastructure in the city to support their 2025 vision. The Lilium Jet is currently undergoing certification testing with the EASA and the FAA, and the company is targeting a 2025 launch of commercial services.

Wisk (California and New Zealand)

Wisk, an urban air mobility company formed as a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, is developing an autonomous air taxi, the Cora, pictured here.Wisk

eVTOL: The Cora

Range:
25 miles

Cruise Speed: 100 mph

Power: 12 independent electric battery-powered lifting propellers.

Seating: Two passengers.

Latest Program Developments: The company has been steadily building a long-term vision to establish autonomous air taxi operations globally, beginning with the electric two-seat Cora aircraft that has flown more than 1,400 times between seven full-scale aircraft in Hollister, California, and New Zealand. Wisk was established as a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, which could prove vital for access to engineers, certification specialists, and policy experts as the company looking to make its self-flying air taxi operations in New Zealand a reality soon. In November 2020, a new partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will research and develop solutions that can enable the integration of Cora into U.S. airspace.

Airbus (Toulouse, France)

On July 31, 2020, CityAirbus demonstrator performed its first fully automatic flight, from take-off through stabilization in flight, and landing at Donauwörth, Germany. Airbus

eVTOL: CityAirbus Demonstrator

Range: 60 miles

Cruise Speed: 75 mph

Power: Eight 100 kW electric motors, eight fixed-pitch propellers

Seating: Four passengers

Latest Program Developments: In 2020, Airbus operated flight testing demonstrations using their all-electric CityAirbus demonstrator at its helicopter manufacturing sites in Donauworth and Manching, Germany. Airbus Helicopters, the division of Airbus managing its CityAirbus program, in January started in-flight tests onboard a modified H130 equipped with technologies specifically geared toward achieving future eVTOL certification. Flight tests started last April when the demonstrator was used to measure helicopter sound levels in urban areas and to particularly study how buildings may affect people’s perception. The French aircraft manufacturer also has an entire Urban Air Mobility (UAM) unit, first established in 2018, dedicated to developing future eVTOL aircraft, traffic management, and infrastructure solutions.

Ehang (Guangzhou, China)

Ehang

eVTOL: EH216

Range: 21 miles

Cruise Speed: 83 mph

Power: Electric batteries.

Seating: Two passengers.

Latest Program Developments: Ehang's major program wins and milestones for the EH216 including a series of autonomous flight demonstrations over densely populated areas and research project and partnership wins in Europe between late 2020 and early 2021. In Paris, Ehang is leading a "Re.Invent Air Mobility" initiative to establish a future UAM ecosystem with new infrastructure and airspace integration procedures and technologies ahead of the city being a prospect for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Elsewhere in Europe, the EH216 is also the only passenger vehicle that is participating in the “Safe and Flexible Integration of Advanced U-Space Services for Medical Air Mobility," (SAFIR-Med). The SAFIR-Med project will take place in collaboration with healthcare providers like hospitals and medical spaces to provide demonstrations in the cities of Antwerp (Belgium), Aachen (Germany), Heerlen (the Netherlands), and Maastricht (the Netherlands). On Feb. 16 however, Ehang came under controversy after Wolfpack Research, a global financial research firm, published a report entitled "EHANG: A STOCK PROMOTION DESTINED TO CRASH AND BURN." Ehang responded the same day it was published by directly refuting claims in the report, which notes the company has "perpetuated its story with a collection of lies about its products, manufacturing, revenues, partnerships, and potential regulatory approval of its purported main business." These latest developments make Ehang a company to monitor in 2021 and beyond, as the autonomous aircraft developer can either show why Wolfpack's claims were true or false.

Vertical Aerospace (Bristol, U.K.)

The VA-1XVertical Aerospace

eVTOL: VA-1X

Range: 100 miles

Cruise Speed: 150 mph

Power: Eight electric battery-powered propulsors.

Seating: One pilot, four passengers.

Latest Program Developments: Between October 2019 and September 2020, Vertical established major supply chain footholds for the physical and software elements of their VA-1X all-electric air taxi, images of which were first released in August 2020. In October 2019, Vertical acquired MGI Technologies, a Formula One engineering, and R&D firm, bringing in-house the ability to rapidly design and build accurate lightweight composite fuselages, conduct crash and fatigue analysis, aerodynamic testing, and more. Honeywell Aerospace has signed on to supply the VA-1X’s flight control systems. In January, the U.K. government-funded Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Program awarded a two-year £2.3 million smart charger development project to pioneer a new wave of aviation battery development. 2021 will be a crucial year for the development of the VA-1X, because Vertical still does not have a physical prototype constructed, but expects to gain EASA type certification and production approval for their air taxi by 2024.

Urban Aeronautics (Tel Aviv, Israel)

Urban Aeronautics Ltd., in January announced it has reached an agreement to provide four CityHawk VTOL aircraft to Hatzolah Air for emergency medical service (EMS) applications.Urban Aeronautics

eVTOL: CityHawk

Range: 93 miles

Cruise Speed: 145 mph

Power: Electric motors and hydrogen fuel cell stacks.

Seating: One pilot, five passengers.

Latest Program Developments: 2020 was a transformative year for Urban Aeronautics after the company signed a partnership with global EMS operator Hatzolah Air to develop, produce and market the CityHawk in collaboration with the service’s air medical professionals. The initial version of the CityHawk is being developed as a pure VTOL aircraft, powered by two Arriel 2N turboshaft engines supplied by SAFRAN. However, around the same time the development partnership with Hatzolah Air was established, Urban Aeronautics also signed an agreement with Hypoint to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cell stacks for a future zero-emissions version of the CityHawk. In January, upon announcing its first four pre-orders for air medical configurations of CityHawk from Hatzolah Air, the Israeli manufacturer said the aircraft is “planned to complete its development and FAA certification for EMS use and be ready for production within three to five years.”

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