Jaunt Air Mobility LLC, a startup founded in April 2018 based in the US state of New Jersey, has been selected by Uber’s Elevate air taxi unit as an aircraft partner, joining Bell, Boeing unit Aurora Flight Sciences, EmbraerX, Karem Aircraft, and Pipistrel Vertical Solutions. Each of these companies, and dozens more, are developing eVTOL (electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) craft, new configurations which feature distributed electric propulsion (DEP) and highly computerized avionics and flight control.
Jaunt’s project resembles a helicopter, with a large central rotor; however, it is a gyrodyne, with four rotors mounted on wings for level flight. The company’s founders maintain that its Reduced rotor Operating Speed Aircraft (ROSA) offers clear advantages for urban air mobility (UAM): low noise level compared to conventional helicopters, high cruising speed, and enhanced safety, as the main rotor can autorotate to a controlled emergency landing like today’s helicopters, but with the wings providing lift.
Following the acquisition earlier this year by Jaunt of Carter Aviation Technologies, which has worked on slowed-rotor compound technology (SRC) for many years, Jaunt announced partnerships yesterday with Triumph, for advanced structural materials, and Honeywell, for the airraft’s digital components.
Jaunt executives Kaydon Stanzione, CEO, and Martin Peryea, CTO, appeared at the Uber Elevate conference in Washington, DC for the announcement. In a question and answer session with Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, CEO Stanzione said:
We looked at Carter Aviation’s success with three flight test demonstration aircraft to vet the technology. We started off saying, can we meet the technology requirements necessary to execute the Uber Urban Air Mobility mission? That was very important for us. We needed to make sure that technologically, we could meet the safety, noise, and mission requirements… We also looked at the direct operating cost, that was important, and we also added our own technological factors to that; ride comfort. And we wanted to take a look at a clear path to certification.
Martin Peryea, Chief Technology Officer, added:
We have a very low disc loading rotor system, which is very, very efficient in hover flight. And as you transition from hover to cruise flight, the wings pick up the majority of the lift of the aircraft. The rotor is unloaded in flight and we can reduce the speed of the rotor significantly, so it’s a very, very quiet configuration, very efficient with high lift-to-drag ratios.
Another unique attribute of the aircraft: if you notice, there’s no tail rotor associated with the aircraft. The tail rotor is the second largest noise generator on a typical helicopter. And when you size the propulsors or the propellers for cruise flight, you end up with a redundancy for any torque in a hovering condition… So we have a level of redundancy in the aircraft itself as a result of that.
I know that Uber is very, very concerned about the direct maintenance costs, the DMC… we don’t have bearings or pitch links that you find in the typical rotor system. It’s a very, very simple, clean design; it’s a bearingless design. We’re using elastomerics for pitch control. That will allow us to lower the maintenance costs, to have very long periods before inspection requirements. So we’re pretty pleased with that design attribute, that should lower DMC inspection requirements, similar to a fixed-wing airplane, which is what you’re looking for.
Asked how a small newcomer like Jaunt can develop an aircraft so rapidly, Stanzione replied in part:
If you look at the aircraft from tip to tail, we really reduced the number of participants, which actually reduces the risk because we have fewer integration problems. From tip to tail externally on the aircraft, everything that you see structurally is provided by Triumph. That helps us. Triumph has had a large investment in advanced structural materials, they have the design capability. Again, those costs savings get passed down to us. Internally, inside the aircraft, again, from tip to tail, we’ve selected Honeywell. This is an all-digital aircraft for the most part, from avionics to the flight deck to the flight management computers, fly by wire, the electric motors, motor controllers. It’s one complete integrated digital aircraft. So when we take a look at this, we have a much lower risk compounded because the key technologies in slowing the rotor down have already been achieved.
Jaunt believes that by seeking airworthiness certification for Part 27 (Normal Category Rotorcraft) and Part 29 (Transport Category Rotorcraft), the process will be simplified.
In a statement, Mark Moore, Uber Elevate Vehicle Systems Director of Engineering, said:
Jaunt Air Mobility has assembled a highly talented team of experienced engineers with a long history of designing and certifying eVTOL vehicles. Martin Peryea, Jaunt’s Chief Technology Officer, has led many helicopter development programs as a chief engineer and brings invaluable insights to developing low noise, reliable, and safe aircraft. I look forward to seeing what our teams accomplish together as we aim to accelerate Jaunt’s commercialization efforts.
At the Uber Elevate conference, Jaunt showed a projected timeline with demonstration flights next year, certification starting in 2022, and production in 2025.