Vertical Aerospace, designer and manufacturer of the VX4 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, provided company updates in a letter to shareholders this week, including plans to perform a series of tethered hover flight tests as soon as the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority grants the company a piloted permit. The tethered hover tests are important for demonstrating the aircraft’s stability during take-off and landing as well as confirming performance of flight control systems and batteries. Vertical’s entry into service of the VX4 is targeted for 2025.
Following a series of taut and loose tethered hover flights, Vertical Aerospace will perform untethered flight tests, including multi-axis maneuvers, at up to 50 feet in altitude. According to the company, these flight tests will “continue to expand the flight envelope, testing stability and control, the flight control system, propeller to propeller interactions, loads, vibrations and system operation during low speed transition.”
The next objective is to demonstrate transitions between hover and wing-borne cruise, at altitudes of 5,000 to 10,000 feet, and at speeds of up to 145kts. Transition flights will validate the vehicle’s aerodynamics, structure, powertrain, and flight control systems.
Vertical’s founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick remarked on the company’s performance in the first half of 2022, noting, “In the last quarter, we have expanded our pre-order book to more than 1,400 and announced new VX4 applications in emergency medical services, cargo and business aviation, with Babcock and FLYINGGROUP.”
Vinny Casey, Chief Financial Officer at Vertical, commented in the letter to shareholders: “During the first half of 2022 we invested in the build of the VX4 Prototype, the development of our test and certification activities and in the people, systems and processes to support the company.”
Key takeaways from the company’s financial results are a net operating loss of £39 million for the first six months of 2022, as well as cash and cash equivalents of £158 million, which it expects to cover funding of operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements for the next year or more. This month, Vertical also established an equity subscription line with global financial services group Nomura. This enables the eVTOL developer to issue up to $100 million in new ordinary shares.
Vertical expects net cash outflows for the second half of 2022 used in operating activities to total £40 to £50 million.
In the first half of 2022, Vertical’s achievements included completion of the full-scale VX4 prototype build, along with a series of ground tests. Vertical completed 90% of the build by the end of March. According to the company’s letter to shareholders, the team expects to begin flying in the coming weeks. During the second quarter, Vertical also “secured concurrent validation of the VX4 between EASA and CAA on the same SC-VTOL certification basis.”
The VX4 is a full-scale prototype that will conduct much of its flight testing with a pilot present in the cockpit, according to the Q2 shareholder letter. “Qualifying a vehicle for piloted flight is a much bigger challenge than flying with remote controls. This requires the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to perform a detailed review before signing off our airworthiness and issuing us with a piloted permit to fly,” according to Vertical. The prototype has completed ground-based testing such as vibration tests, lift load tests, and propeller thrust tests in order to confirm that the prototype meets the design specifications.
Other highlights from this year included a strategic partnership with Molicel, a company that will supply high-power cylindrical format cells for the battery pack of Vertical’s VX4. And American Airlines recently agreed to pre-pay for 50 of Vertical’s eVTOL aircraft. The airline entered into a $1 billion agreement with Vertical last year to purchase up to 250 of the VX4 aircraft and an optional 100 additional aircraft. American also made plans to invest $25 million in the eVTOL developer at the time.
Vertical entered into an agreement with Hanwha Aerospace this year to develop electric actuators that will be integrated into the VX4. The actuators will provide tilt and pitch control for the eVTOL’s four forward propellers as well as aerodynamic control surface actuation on the V-tail and wing.
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