Sunday, July 14, 2024

Vertical’s VX4 program moves to the next phase

Vertical Aerospace, an aerospace and technology company that is pioneering zero-emissions aviation, has provided an update on its overall program.

Vertical’s remote thrustborne flight test campaign was successfully completed in July 2023, with the first full-scale VX4 prototype achieving its target speed of 40 knots (70 km/h). The prototype demonstrated exceptional overall stability and control, exceeding performance targets by 10-30% during hover and low-speed flights.

The sustained hover performance of the prototype was particularly impressive, as it maintained level flight longer than expected, which is usually the most challenging regime for a VTOL aircraft. These thrustborne flight tests aimed to verify stability, battery efficiency, control characteristics, aerodynamics, structural loads, performance, and vibration throughout this speed range, all of which were achieved.

Vertical continued with additional uncrewed flight tests after concluding the remote thrustborne flight test campaign. These tests were conducted to gain insights into the aircraft’s performance under unexpected operating conditions before its scheduled retirement.

During test flights, the aircraft experienced an unexpected fault, which caused it to enter a stable descent before being damaged on impact with the ground. Vertical conducted an investigation and submitted a report to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which identified the root cause of the incident to be a fault with a propeller. This early-generation propeller had already been redesigned prior to the incident.

The issue was fully resolved before the next phase of testing, and Vertical is implementing further recommendations from the investigation. In the interest of transparency and safety, Vertical plans to provide a further full update to the industry on the incident once the AAIB’s investigation has concluded.

The assembly of a second significantly more advanced full-scale VX4 prototype is underway at GKN Aerospace’s Global Technology Centre. This demonstrator is expected to be ready to fly early next year. Its components will include technology from most of Vertical’s certification partners, such as GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell, and Leonardo. An additional, identical full-scale aircraft has also now been approved and is expected to be flying in the second half of 2024.

These upgraded full-scale aircraft structures and subsystems will be tested in line with certification standards. Both will require rigorous regulatory oversight, including a Permit to Fly from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, to progress to piloted flying.

The VX4 was introduced as a five-seat air taxi with a proprietary battery system and a 1 MW powertrain. It promises a 100-mile (161 km) range at 200 mph (325 km/h).