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T he flying taxis from Airbus and Uber may have some fresh competition, albeit not quite in the way they might have expected. Rolls-Royce has unveiled an EVTOL (Electric Vertical Take Off and Landing) concept that could carry four to five passengers to virtually any large-enough landing spot thanks to wings that can rotate 90 degrees. It wouldn’t be purely electric, despite the name (gas turbines would produce the 500kW of power needed for six propellers), but it would be quiet while ferrying people up to 500 miles at a peak speed of 250MPH. Its wing propellers would fold away once at cruise height to avoid irking either passengers or people below.
It wouldn’t be purely electric, despite the name (gas turbines would produce the 500kW of power needed for six propellers), but it would be quiet while ferrying people up to 500 miles at a peak speed of 250MPH. Its wing propellers would fold away once at cruise height to avoid irking either passengers or people below.
Speaking ahead of this week’s Farnborough Airshow, Rob Watson, head of the company’s electrical team, said: “We are well placed to play a leading role in the emerging world of personal air mobility and will also look to work in collaboration with a range of partners.”
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Flying vehicles have long been the stuff of science fiction, but aviation and technology companies are now working to make them a reality.
Airbus, US ride-sharing firm Uber and a range of start-ups including one backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, called Kitty Hawk, have all announced projects.
Rolls said the initial concept for EVTOL used gas turbine technology to generate electricity to power six electric propulsors, specially designed to have a low noise profile.
Its wings would be able to rotate 90 degrees, enabling the vehicle to take off or land vertically. It could also use existing heliports and airports.
“We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid 2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created,” the firm said.
The company, which will disclose more details at Farnborough, said it was looking for an airframe maker and a partner to provide aspects of the electrical system.