Electric Vertical Take-Off & Landing (eVTOL) has rapidly emerged as “THE” aviation technology to watch. But building the aircraft is only “half the battle” with CERTIFICATION comprising the other half …
Think about autonomous automobiles: Tesla and many other innovative companies successfully demonstrated self-driving cars years ago. But can you buy one or use one for actual real-world daily driving? The optimist says “Almost; any day now”, but the realist simply knows that day is still years away. But why delay, when the technology is here today?!? Simple: “CERTIFICATION”.
With over 240 eVTOL aircraft programs underway today, billions of dollars are demonstrating successful technology to bring eVTOL to the public now. As it today. This author and his company have assisted with over ten of those programs and the technology WORKS. Truly. However, like autonomous automobiles, even manned eVTOL aircraft exhibit certain characteristics which complicate civil certification, and eVTOL certification must comply with ARP4761/A, ARP4754A, DO-178C, DO-254, and other guidelines.
Commercial aviation is widely stratified with different certification rules and degrees of rigor based upon:
- Experimental versus true-civil
- Aircraft type
- Aircraft size/weight
- Engine type
- Number of engines
- Operational characteristics
Since the business case for eVTOL is based upon Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and revenue paying passengers, eVTOL aircraft must comply with aviation “Standards” including ARP4761/A for Safety, ARP4754A for Aircraft and Systems, DO-178C for Avionics Software and DO-254 for Avionics Hardware. But there is more … MUCH more …
The following figure shows the basic eVTOL certification ecosystem
eVTOL certification is complicated by unique factors which specifically apply to eVTOL and UAM:
- eVTOL aircraft are intended to operate from within dense urban areas;
- eVTOL aircraft must take-off and land in potentially congested and uncontrolled airspace;
- eVTOL aircraft have limited hazard recovery options during takeoff and landing (since low altitude);
- eVTOL aircraft rely upon new battery systems which must exhibit both redundancy and temperature containment;
- Because of the above, eVTOL aircraft must have higher levels of automated redundancy than similar sized general aviation fixed-wing aircraft.
The following images shows three eVTOL prototypes currently under development:
eVTOL certification has promulgated new FAA and EASA eVTOL regulations. These are summarized below:
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