Revolution.Aero Uplift: AeroMobil hopes to launch a regional ride-hailing flying car app
Picture this. You live in San Francisco but need to make a last-minute trip to Los Angeles for business tomorrow. Driving down would take six hours. A flight would take you, at best, an hour and a half plus time on the ground both sides, not to mention a considerable fare.
Or you could opt for the dual benefits of flying and driving, by booking a roadable aircraft ride offered by Slovakian flying car maker AeroMobil.
The AeroMobil would drive by road to a local airport, unfold its wings in under three minutes, take-off and fly south at a cruising speed of 190 mph, the company’s CEO and chairman, Patrick Hessel, told Revolution.Aero.
AeroMobil launched in 2010 and draws design inspiration from the mythical winged horse Pegasus. It conducted flight tests for two prototypes in its first five years. Now, some 300,000 hours and $30m of engineering will have been invested into the latest model, AeroMobil 4.0, by the time is launched.
The AeroMobil 4.0 (pictured above) has just finished six months of flight testing, with an estimated entry to commercial service in 2023. But the company intends to bring another vehicle to market in 2025, the AeroMobil 5.0, alongside a ride-sharing app which will allow customers to fly regional trips usually made by planes or cars.
Both vehicles are short take-off and landing flying cars fitted with hybrid electric powertrains. The 4.0 seats two people including a pilot, while the 5.0 will hold one pilot and three passengers.
Hessel said: “We see the regional market being so strong and underserved – especially for regional ride-hailing services – that the STOL is actually very interesting because of the long range. That and the door-to-door capability of the model is where we differentiate.”
The AeroMobil 5.0 range will be around 500 miles, said Hessel, meaning the company hopes to “be able to cover half of US domestic flights with our 5.0”.
The company previously projected that the 5.0 would be a VTOL.
However, Hessel pointed out that the STOL design would provide a “longer range than any VTOL can do”. The vehicle’s hybrid electric powertrain is also a major contributor to the range.
“Aerodynamic efficiency or gliding ratio of fixed wing aircraft is much higher than that of VTOL rotorcraft. It is one of the main factors affecting the energy consumption of the vehicle. If aerodynamic efficiency is high, fuel consumption is lower,” he said.
Further, the 5.0 runs on automotive petrol, meaning that users will be able to refuel at petrol stations enroute their destination.
“The 5.0 will target the regional, door-to-door, ride-hailing segment, which does not exist as of today.”
With the CS23 certification, Hessel says that there is no reason someone should not be able to take-off from “their ranch in Montana” for a trip between 150-500 miles, which would usually be done by road.
The vehicle can use runways which are very short and do not have to be paved, enabling it to use more aerodromes than currently being used by the general aviation industry, underutilised infrastructure.
RideApp, which is a long-distance carpooling app, comes close for journeys made by car in the US. In Europe, there is a BlablaCar – which was launched in France in 2006.
Evolution of AeroMobil
‘Own booking platform’
Alongside its vehicles, AeroMobil plans to launch its own booking platform. “You can book an end-to-end ride through our booking platform. We are in discussions for partnerships on that.”
Partners are likely to include companies which will assist with component supply – commercial operations as well as the platform – and assembly. Hessel said this will enable the company the opportunity to scale up much faster, “which is difficult to do in-house”.
It is important that AeroMobil finds a partner whose ride-hailing technology is right to consolidate its network of vehicles and destinations. The size of the tech partner’s customer base is also a factor.
Once the company has setup its own booking platform, Hessel said it would consider offering AeroMobil’s vehicles on other platforms too. “It remains open whether we want other platforms and aggregators to offer our rides.”
Popular routes within the US could be New York to Boston, Orlando to Miami or Orlando to Cuba and the Bahamas.
“The good thing is you don’t need to build an infrastructure in order to operate, which makes it very flexible. This means you can move the offering to a microregion if you see the demand.”
Eventually, Hessel said the company would expand to other regions in the world, for similar trip lengths not serviced by eVTOLs. AeroMobil hopes to have a fleet in the thousands on its platform.
AeroMobil hopes to strengthen market interest for the 5.0 and its eventual ride-sharing user interface with the 4.0. Not only this, but it also hopes to grow public acceptance with a personal vehicle. Unlike the 5.0, this vehicle is the company’s business-to-customer product (B2C) with a price tag of $1.7m a piece.
It has already registered interest from several potential customers, he said.
Hessel told Revolution.Aero that the company has completed “the most important phase” of flight testing in 2020, ensuring principal flight parameters on its path to certification.
The 4.0 has met several key EASA CS23 requirements governing airworthiness, top and stall speeds as well as achieving take-off within 1,300ft (396m). The latest prototype has greater investment than its predecessors, the AeroMobil 2.5 and 3.0.
Potential customers will be able to take-off from their nearest airfield and land at their destination.
“What is notable is that the vehicle has now been designed to also be aesthetic as well as safe for an end customer,” he said.
Sitting at the intersection of aviation and automation, the AeroMobil 4.0 will target individuals who fly small aircraft – and therefore have a private pilot certificate – or collect supercars. “There will be people who buy it as part of their collection and those that use it to fly to multiple destinations, cutting out intermediate modes of transport,” said Hessel.
Customers could be tech billionaires and celebrities in the creative world. You can watch footage of the test flights here.
Grant – $7.1m (€6m)
Venture round – Patrick Hessel and InfraPartners Management
AeroMobil has raised $32m over five funding rounds, according to Crunchbase. Hessel is one of the lead investors – and majority shareholders – in its most recent round which concluded in 2017. InfraPartners Management was another investor in this round.
Hessel said AeroMobil is looking at further funding rounds in the near future.
A regional ride-sharing app via flying cars is certainly an exciting prospect for the industry, which seems to find an increasing number of players entering the urban air mobility space. However, there are many steps before large scale commercial service.
Folks in LA, San Francisco and even Vegas – stay tuned!