The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) (www.easa.europa.eu
) recently published a common set of conditions for the certification of new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, including eVTOLs (electric).
This ‘framework’ is the first building block for manufacturers aiming to develop small VTOL aircraft to European
Today, more than 150 eVTOL concepts — led by manufacturers ranging from major industry players to start-ups — are currently in development.
Furthermore, the technological progress has been ‘so promising and swift’ that the nascent urban air mobility industry is expected to reach a market value of $7.9 billion by 2030.
However, the rapid growth of this new class of aerial vehicles poses a number of regulatory challenges.
These include those related to diversity (how to best certify air vehicle design) and complexity (how to manage airspace while also reducing noise and visual impact).
In July 2019, EASA published a ‘Special Condition’ for small VTOL aircraft operation.
The basic framework of this publication is the result of a public consultation initiated in October 2018 with a variety of industry stakeholders.
It covers aircraft for nine passengers or fewer, as well as a maximum take-off weight of 3,175kg.
EASA executive director Patrick Ky said: “The establishment of a common set of conditions for the certification of these new vehicle concepts will ensure fair competition on the European market, as well as clarity for future manufacturers and their investors.”
More than 1,000 companies and individuals, including Airbus, provided feedback to EASA regarding the standards for small VTOL aircraft certification.
This covered a variety of topics, including cyber security, the distinctions between different forms of propulsion systems, and the rules for autonomous and remote-piloted aircraft control systems.
Speaking at an event in June, acting FAA head Dan Elwell underscored the importance of avoiding the ‘Wild West’ situation that had resulted with the emergence of drones.
“With drones, a whole new market appeared overnight, and we were left behind.
“That is why we are working with everyone to get it right this time.”