Diehl Aerospace and Thales are joining Airbus in investing in the emerging eVTOL market and have signed a trilateral agreement on the development and supply of the flight control computers for the new CityAirbus NextGen. Both partners are developing their own system, to be integrated into a dissimilar architecture to comply with the new EASA regulation for eVTOL. This streamlined architecture is essential to ensuring the redundancy of the computers and the vehicle's safety, and will make certification simpler while retaining the capacity to accommodate further developments and host multiple functions such as navigation, guidance and pilot assistance.
Thales is responsible for the primary computing system while Diehl is developing the secondary flight control computer. The system ensures that the second, independent flight control computer monitors the data of the primary computer system permanently, and it can also take over the flight control itself.
“I'm delighted to announce the first system partnership for the development of our CityAirbus NextGen,” says Airbus head of UAM Jörg Müller. “UAM is a joint effort. Nobody can do it alone. Airbus is reaching out to potential partners from the industry to design and build an optimised vehicle for safe and efficient air transport in urban environments. With Thales and Diehl, we are proud to have two excellent partners with a lot of expertise on board.”
The central part of Diehl's computer platform is the remote computing module. The computer platform enables multifunctional applications beyond the pure flight control and thereby achieves a high-performance, scalable, expandable and cost-optimised solution. Diehl Aerospace has many decades of experience in avionics for civil and military aircraft and helicopters, and this expertise is particularly relevant here as the limited installation space and the strict requirements for low weight and low energy consumption represent a special challenge. For modern eVTOLs, therefore, new approaches are required in the system architecture.
“eVTOLs will be a key part of future mobility and will enormously enrich it; in our cities but also beyond. For this, the safe operation of the innovative aircraft, of course, plays an essential role,” adds Diehl Aviation CEO Josef Köcher. “We see a trend-setting partnership in the close collaboration with Airbus and Thales for the reliability and safety of the CityAirbus. We are proud to be on board with our expertise, and we are looking forward to seeing the CityAirbus in the skies soon.”
Thales has more than 40 years of experience in electrical flight controls, having supplied the systems for the first ever fly-by-wire commercial airliner, the Airbus A310, and with a total of 12,000 aircraft equipped to date.
“We are thrilled to see that our close cooperation with Airbus and Diehl is once again delivering concrete results through an agreement that will add a whole new dimension to air mobility,” says Thales executive vice president, avionics Yannick Assouad. “With this safe and innovative flight control solution, we are working together to build an airspace environment we can all trust.”
The fully electric CityAirbus NextGen is equipped with fixed wings, a V-shaped tail and eight electrically powered propellers as part of its distributed propulsion system. It is designed to carry up to four passengers in a zero emissions flight in multiple applications over a range of up to 80 km at a cruise speed of 120 km/h. It is optimised for hover and cruise efficiency, while not requiring moving surfaces or tilting parts during transition. The first flight of a prototype air taxi is planned for 2023.