The test flight of the electric aircraft has an accident. Can eVTOL allow us to travel with drones?

When it comes to imagining the world of the future, flying in an aircraft is always mentioned. All kinds of aircraft move quickly according to the preset in the vast sky, no longer have to endure the congested ground traffic. The ideal is full, but the reality is not.

A few days ago, Joby Aviation announced that one of the company's remotely piloted eVTOL prototypes had an accident during flight tests at its remote flight test facility in California. The tests were conducted in uninhabited areas and no one was injured in the accident.

▲ Picture from: Joby Aviation

Although Joby has not disclosed more information about the accident at present, according to the analysis of flight data carried out by someone on the Internet, the plane in the accident should be a Joby prototype with the tail number N542AJ, which has obtained the FAA (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration) One of two pre-production prototypes for a Special Airworthiness Certificate and a U.S. Air Force Airworthiness Certificate.

The prototype was on a test flight near Fort Hunter Liggett, a U.S. Air Force facility southeast of Monterey, at the time of the accident. Joby has previously stated that their goal is for the aircraft to reach a top speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour) and an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,050 meters).

▲ Picture from: Joby Aviation

But flight data showed that the prototype that crashed reached a top speed of over 270 mph (435 km/h), far exceeding the previously mentioned top speeds.

This flight accident had a big impact on Joby. After the accident was announced, Joby's stock price fell by 9%, which would also slow down Joby's progress in obtaining airworthiness certification. In the eVTOL market, however, Joby, which has performed more than 1,000 test flights, is still ahead of the rest.

▲ Picture from: Twitter

eVTOL, the full name of "electric vertical takeoff and landing", that is, "electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft", generally refers to aircraft used for manned or heavy-duty logistics, excluding consumer-grade multi-rotor drones for aerial photography.

One of the advantages of eVTOL is that it can land and take off like a helicopter, without the need for an extra-long airport runway to assist, so it can directly use the heliport or any vertical take-off and landing field, with strong flexibility. And it can be driven remotely or autonomously, making it easier and easier to operate. Of course, the driver also needs to learn how to control in bad weather and special situations.

▲ Picture from: Joby Aviation

As an emerging industry, the development of eVTOL can be said to have just started. Most of the current products are similar to Joby's prototype: it can seat about 2-5 people, there are multiple rotors on the aircraft, a distributed electric propulsion system is used, and the system is redundant, so that in the case of rotor problems It is still safe to fly and land.

As an electric aircraft, the biggest technical factor limiting eVTOL is the battery. To ensure sufficient flight time, the current results are still too high. In addition, obtaining airworthiness certification is not easy.

▲ Picture from: Joby Aviation

In January 2021, Joby acquired Uber Elevate, which shows that eVTOL may be applied to shared travel in the future, but to achieve this, batteries, manufacturing processes, unmanned aerial systems, charging pile construction and many other aspects still have a long way to go. way to go.

It is worth mentioning that if these technologies can achieve breakthroughs, another industry that is closely related to eVTOL and has a common goal – flying cars can also be developed. At the China International Aviation and Aerospace Expo in 2021, Xiaopeng exhibited its self-developed flying car "Traveler X2", which can last for 35 minutes, has a maximum flight speed of 130 km/h, and has autonomous flight path planning capabilities.

▲ Picture from: Xiaopeng

Xiaopeng also plans to install wheels on the next-generation product, the 6th generation "Traveler X2", to realize the switch between land and air, and hopes to achieve mass production in 2024.

Although the reality of air vehicle travel is still "skinny", I hope that day will not be too far away from us.

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