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Rolls-Royce tech to power all-electric aircraft designed to hit speeds of more than 200 miles per hour

New ideas about urban air mobility could one day transform the way people travel between cities.

Nikolay Pandev | E+ | Getty Images

Technology from Rolls-Royce will be used to power a pure electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle designed to connect cities, in what the firm described as its “first commercial deal” in the urban air mobility sector.

The VA-X4 vehicle, from a U.K.-based company called Vertical Aerospace, will be piloted, able to transport four passengers over a distance of 120 miles and have cruise speeds of more than 200 miles per hour.

In an announcement Tuesday, Rolls-Royce said it would design the system architecture of the VA-X4’s electrical propulsion system; its electric power system; its power distribution; and a monitoring system that would be used to support operations.

Vertical Aerospace, which was established in 2016, says test flights for the VA-X4 are slated for this year, with certification for the vehicle planned for 2024 and “initial commercial services” due to begin shortly thereafter.

Rob Watson, director at Rolls-Royce Electrical, said the new urban air mobility market had the potential to “transform the way that people and freight move from city to city.” 

With governments around the world attempting to phase out diesel and gasoline vehicles in favor of low and zero emission options, the infrastructure required to keep our towns and cities moving looks set to change.

Against this backdrop, ideas connected to urban air mobility are beginning to gain traction.

‘Vertiports’

Toward the end of January, it was announced that another project centered around urban air mobility had been granted £1.2 million (around $1.67 million) from U.K. Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge, a government-backed program.

The idea behind Urban Air Port’s concept, dubbed Air One, is to develop a “pop-up” airport and charging hub that would be used by electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft such as delivery drones and air taxis.

According to Urban Air Port, the development will be launched in the English city of Coventry this year. The firm wants to roll out 200 similar sites around the world in the next five years.

Other organizations involved in the initiative planned for Coventry include the city’s council and Hyundai Motor Group. Separately, Hyundai is also developing its own eVTOL and is looking to commercialize the tech by 2028.

Elsewhere, companies such as Lilium are working on similar offerings. In January, the German-based firm announced it had signed an agreement with infrastructure giant Ferrovial to develop at least 10 “vertiports” in the United States. Lilium has described vertiports as “providing infrastructure for landing, recharging, and taking off with passengers.”


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