Emerging by emergency
In a space full of clean sheet aircraft designs, it can be hard to see clearly past the drawings and 1:10 prototypes. Uncertainties over target market, rate of adoption and capital to breakeven are often hard to reason.
Canada-based Limosa thinks it has the answer at least a few. The developer is building a one-pilot-seven-passenger, eight-rotor, winged eVTOL/eCTOL it calls the LimoConnect V2. The aircraft can land conventionally on a runway or takeoff and land vertically when required. Currently being tested as a 8:1 scale prototype, a full-scale version is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2024. Limosa expects to receive type certification from Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) in 2028.
“Even for the frontrunners, the UAM air taxi sector is going to be challenging to commercialise because of the public acceptance factor,” says Hamid Hamidi, CEO and president, Limosa – a former Bell Flight and Bombardier engineer. “With EMS there is no issue of public acceptance because people accept what they might someday need. You’re providing a service in an emergency and everyone knows that it could be them. Despite the disruption your aircraft could temporarily cause. That is why I believe EMS and cargo will be very first to start.”
Limosa has chosen a modular design, allowing it to configure the layout from air ambulance, VIP, air taxi or cargo. “To make it happen you need to have a structure to which you can apply that configuration change. If you don’t see those structures in advance you’re going to have struggles when you certify because you need to certify the primary structure and then re-certify for each configuration,” says Hamidi. Compared with all other eVTOL vehicles in the 7,000lbs range LimoConnect will have the largest cabin on offer, he says.
Hamidi says Limosa has designed its aircraft with passenger experience in mind, a factor he feels is often overlooked. “They don’t talk about how to get a family with kids and two strollers onboard. They don’t have space for this. Some people are going for golfing. Some people have limited mobility and require access which accommodates that. We do this because we have learnt some lessons from those who have gone before us in the industry. Which means us doing the right things ahead of time.”
As noted, the first application Limosa is targeting is emergency medical service (EMS). In this configuration LimoConnect will have room for two patients on stretchers, two emergency responders and their equipment.
“I know the VIP market is also there and I believe it will offer bigger initial profit margins. But we want to make something that can make ordinary people’s lives easier. We want to carry patients from underserved areas with no or limited access and potentially save their lives in the process,” says Hamidi. “I have had a few approaches regarding military offence applications and I said no, because I was raised up through the war in Iran and personally I want to help people. Military defence and surveillance is however under our radar.”
At Revolution.Aero we believe the greatest innovations come from people working together. One way to do that is through complimentary technologies. Earlier this month at our San Francisco event, Jump Aero revealed their plans for a fast emergency response aircraft. With a focus on the first eight minutes, Jump Aero is developing a one-person eVTOL capable of landing almost anywhere that will fly a trained emergency responder to the scene. The aircraft is then loaded onto a vehicle and driven back to base once deployed.
“Our aircraft is going to be somewhere between Jump Aero and ground ambulance response times,” says Hamidi. “This allows us to compliment Jump’s services for example, especially in areas where ground access is limited. A firm like Jump Aero could do the first response before we transport the patient to the hospital.”
Next week the team are performing demonstrations, but a test run at a major airport on the national grid is one thing, reaching undeserved communities where infrastructure in sparse is another. “We are going to serve a circular area that allows us to go to and from our station initially. But we are also talking to a number of potential partners, such as Volatus, and looking at a number of options including portable chargers and trickle charging. We are confident that a network of chargers in underserved areas capable of charging our vehicles is feasible to develop,” says Hamidi. BETA is doing similar work across the border on this.
“We are somewhat late to the game, and you see that it is going to cost in the region of $1bn to certify to a new aircraft such as our own,” says Hamidi. “These kind of numbers don’t scare us because we are Canadian and we have two governments, Quebec and Canada, who are very supportive and will back us up for a significant part of the financing required to certify.” Limosa has not published any information on the list price of their aircraft, but Hamidi tells us a production model could have a list price of anywhere from $3m-$4m (similar to BETA and Joby) and potentially slightly more in an EMS configuration when extra equipment has been factored in.
Spreading the risk and deciding on potentially less profitable, but equally less volatile, commercial markets is perhaps a wise play. People are always going to have emergencies. It was 20th century American architect and father of the geodesic dome, R Buckminster Fuller who said: “My ideas have undergone a process of emergence by emergency. When they are needed badly enough, they are accepted.” Hamidi is betting such is also true of Limosa.
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