Avionics caught up with the CEO of AIR, Rani Plaut, on the company’s latest progress and its goals for the AIR ONE eVTOL aircraft. AIR first unveiled its eVTOL and began accepting pre-orders for the vehicle in October 2021. The U.S. market is the primary target for the AIR ONE, although customers from Israel and the U.K. have placed pre-orders for units as well. The first hover test with the full-scale prototype was conducted in June 2022, and in December, the eVTOL completed its first full transition flight.
Plaut shared that they are flying regularly with their full-scale prototype and plan to start another flight campaign in mid-May. “We are opening the envelope, so to speak, coming to full performance—probably not this flight campaign, but the next one,” he said.
AIR is currently in the final stages of design for the mass production version of its aircraft, according to Plaut. He noted that there is cross-pollination between the flight testing and the design process. With the flight testing, “there is a feedback loop into elements in the final design of the mass production unit. Also, elements from the mass production units are being tested on a regular basis on the technological prototype. We are now finishing the last tweaks to the final design.”
Previously, AIR was exploring various options. However, the company is now focused on narrowing down its choices and finalizing the performance specifications. Plaut expects that the range will be close to 100 miles.
“We reduced the speed a little bit,” he stated. “Being a battery-operated aircraft is very limiting on the performance, meaning we have a specific speed where we can obtain the maximum range.”
The team is also in the final stages of design and development for the aircraft’s distributed patented flight control system. The AIR ONE is designed to continue operating even if one of the subsystems in the flight control system encounters an issue.
“Our approach is not having any degraded emergency mode,” Plaut explained. For piloting a conventional aircraft, “in case of an emergency, you move from a regular course of operation to a degraded emergency mode where you have to change the way you operate, the way you approach things.
“In the case of the AIR ONE, you don’t have that at all. The flight control system takes care of it inherently. There is no choosing of operations and you don’t have to change the way you operate as a pilot.”
Plaut revealed that they have secured suppliers for about 85% of the components for the initial batch of mass-produced eVTOLs. The first batch of 400 units is locked in, although registration is open to get in line for the next round of pre-orders.
AIR plans to start building the units for mass production in the U.S. by the end of the year. Plaut mentioned that they are hoping to see the production aircraft fly in the first quarter of 2024.