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Electric Vertical Take off and Landing (eVTOL) Aircraft

  • 06 Jun 2022
  • 5 min read

For prelims: eVTOL Aircraft, carbon-14

For Mains: Scientific Innovations & Discoveries

Why in News?

The Government of India is exploring the possibility of inviting manufacturers of Electric Vertical Take off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft to set up base in India.

What is eVTOL Aircraft?

  • About:
    • An eVTOL aircraft is one that uses electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically.
    • Most eVTOLs also use what is called as distributed electric propulsion technology which means integrating a complex propulsion system with the airframe.
  • Features:
    • In order to maximize efficiency, and to also ensure safety, there are multiple motors.
    • This is technology that has grown on account of successes in electric propulsion based on progress in motor, battery, fuel cell and electronic controller technologies and also fuelled by the need for new vehicle technology that ensures Urban Air Mobility (UAM).
      • Thus, eVTOL is one of the newer technologies and developments in the aerospace industry.
    • There are an estimated 250 eVTOL concepts or more being fine-tuned to bring alive the concept of UAM.
      • Some of these include the use of multi-rotors, fixed-wing and tilt-wing concepts backed by sensors, cameras and even radar. Here the key word here is “autonomous connectivity”.
      • Some of these are in various test phases and there are also others undergoing test flights so as to be certified for use.
    • In short, eVTOLs have been likened to a third wave in an aerial revolution.
      • The first being the advent of commercial flying and the second, the age of helicopters.

How are Developments in eVTOLs being Made?

  • The roles eVTOLs adopt depends on battery technology and the limits of onboard electric power.
  • Power is required during the key phases of flight such as take off, landing and flight (especially in high wind conditions).
  • Weight is also an important factor.
    • BAE Systems, for example, is looking at formats using a variety of Lithium batteries.
      • BAE Systems is a British multinational arms, security, and aerospace company based in London, England.
    • Nano Diamond Batteries is looking at “Diamond Nuclear Voltaic (DNV) technology” using minute amounts of carbon-14 nuclear waste encased in layered industrial diamonds to create self-charging batteries.
  • The use of only batteries and looking at hybrid technologies such as hydrogen cells and batteries depending on the flight mission has been questioned by experts.
  • There is even one that uses a gas-powered generator that powers a small aircraft engine, in turn charging the battery system.
    • But whatever the technology, there will be very stringent checks and certification requirements.

What are the Challenges?

  • Crash Prevention Systems:
    • As the technology so far is a mix of unpiloted and piloted aircraft, the areas in focus include “crash prevention systems”.
    • These use cameras, radar, GPS (Global Positioning System) and infrared scanners.
  • Ensuring Safety:
    • There are also issues such as ensuring safety in case of powerplant or rotor failure. Aircraft protection from cyberattacks is another area of focus.
  • Navigation and Flight Safety:
    • A third area is in navigation and flight safety and the use of technology when operating in difficult terrain, unsafe operating environments and also bad weather.

What is the Value of the Market?

  • The global market for eVTOLs was put at USD8.5 million in 2021 and is to grow to USD30.8 million by 2030.
  • The demand will be on account of green energy and noise-free aircraft, cargo carrying concepts and the need for new modes of transport.
  • The UAM market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 25% between 2018-25.
    • By 2025, it is anticipated to be a USD74 billion market. This includes the eVTOLs market since UAM ideally focuses on the use of eVTOLs.

Source: TH

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