Michigan-based logistics company TPS Logistics signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with aviation technology start-up Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX) to work together on introducing electric vertical take-off and landing, wing-lifted (eVTOL) aircraft into the logistics market, ASX announced in a press release yesterday.
“TPS Logistics will help ASX determine routes, what kind of cargo the craft should carry and a concept of operations,” ASX co-founder and chief product officer Dr. Anita Sengputa told Air Cargo World. The company is working to combine automotive and aviation technology to minimize costs, improve safety and ultimately sell the aircraft for “well under US$1 million,” she added. They’ll be using “electric vehicle powertrain components and mass production” to try to keep costs down.
ASX spokesperson Vijay Iyer told Air Cargo World that their goal is to do the “first demonstration flights for cargo logistics with eVTOLs by 2022.” The company is currently testing its fifth subscale model, and is working to secure funding for a full scale model that could be used to gain Federal Aviation Administration certification, he said. Under the current design, the eVTOL aircraft can fit 1,100 pounds of cargo, or four passengers and their bags, according to Sengputa.
The eVTOL, which ASX dubbed MOBi-One, has an estimated cruising speed of 150 miles-per-hour, and a range of 100 miles. With a hybrid propulsion system, that range is expected to triple to 300 miles. A trip in an eVTOL is five times as fast as a trip made driving in an urban or suburban environment, Sengputa said.
The MOBi-One aircraft is “meant to be used for suburban to metro commutes,” Iyer explained, adding that the aircraft can land on “dedicated ports on top of buildings or parking structures.” He added that there are about 15,000 regional airports around the U.S. that could be “leveraged for these types of aircraft.”
The vehicle will be less costly than “comparable solutions,” like a helicopter, for instance, while both producing less noise and consuming less energy, he said.
Developing small electric aircraft has been a goal for the air cargo community for some time, with recent developments indicating a suitable product may enter the market sooner, rather than later. In January, Boeing unveiled a prototype cargo drone that it calls an “unmanned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) cargo air vehicle (CAV) prototype.” The company hopes to use the “eight propeller vertical-liftoff ‘quadcopter’” drone and similar technology for “delivering time-sensitive and high-value goods, conducting autonomous missions in remote or dangerous environments, and other cargo and logistics applications.”
More recently, Amazon revealed a hexagonal drone that’s designed to carry packages up to five pounds within a 7.5 mile range of the warehouse. Air Canada Cargo also recently announced plans to use drones for deliveries, signing an agreement with Drone Delivery Canada, and DHL Global Forwarding launched a test flight of a smart drone in China last month.
You can view a video of the ASX tilt-wing Vertical Take Off and Landing Subscale Testing below: