Four 75-inch (1.90 meter) screens installed vertically, coupled together like a screen, show the test track of the Embraer in São José dos Campos (SP). I sit in front of them in an armchair that slides along a rail and locks automatically. Between me and the screens, a monitor. In the lower left corner of it, a button to turn on the supposed “flying car” and another to take off. On my right side, I pull a joystick back. There, I start to fly over São José dos Campos.
O state went to Embraer’s host city to test the eVTOL (English acronym for vertical take-off and landing vehicle, as the aircraft is officially called) simulator. The equipment was installed in one of the company’s units in July last year and has been used to test, for example, the interface between the pilot and the machine. Thus, Embraer test pilots operate the simulator and pass on to the engineers what needs to be changed for the future equipment to be successful.
“The pilot tests and tells us if a change of direction has to be more or less smooth”, explains the executive director of the Eve (Embraer company responsible for the development of eVTOL), Andre Stein. According to the executive, the intention is that piloting the aircraft is easy and intuitive. The software should do most of the work, requiring few commands from the pilot and ensuring an easy evolution to the autonomous version of the “flying car”.
From what has been observed, the company is moving quickly in that direction. After pressing the power button and the take-off button, I used a joystick with my right hand to give the direction of flight. The equipment responded smoothly. With my left hand, I moved a throttle lever that allows the aircraft to move forward or backward.
Piloting is so simple that I had no difficulty in “landing” at an exact point at Embraer headquarters, despite having no experience with aircraft. The maximum speed had already been fixed in the computers at 30 km per hour, which prevented the flight from being a little more exciting.
The company works for the eVTOL to operate at up to 180 km/h, but the idea that the speed is controlled by the computer, and not the pilot, should happen in practice – which also guarantees greater safety.
All the work that has been developed in the simulator must allow Eve to put the “flying car” in the air already at its maximum power. Embraer did this when developing the E2 commercial aircraft family. In the first flight of the first jet, maximum speed and altitudes have already been reached. “Everything had been previously tested in a simulator like this one (of eVTOL). We are also already developing the software and testing it here according to what they need to be certified (by regulatory authorities)”, adds Stein.
While pilots and engineers carry out simulations in São José dos Campos, another team is working in Gavião Peixoto (SP) on a kind of prototype of the aircraft. The size that the eVTOL should have, but without a fuselage, the equipment has been used to test the concept of the “flying car”. Employees study, for example, whether the propellers are in the right places and whether the systems are correctly integrated. Stein explains that the construction is being done in blocks, until the time will come to put them all together.
The expectation, according to the executive, is that this prototype-like equipment will make its first flight “in the coming months”. Eve’s goal is to deliver the “flying car” by 2026.
Like the simulator, the aircraft should be as simple as possible, with fixed parts, as this facilitates maintenance work, making the operation cheaper. The eVTOL must have ten engines, eight of them to move it vertically and two, horizontally. As the engines will be electric, will not emit study effect gases, will reduce noise and will still be light – this will allow several of them to be installed in a single aircraft and, therefore, make the vertical and horizontal displacement.
Eve’s project provides for the eVTOL to fly between 400 meters and 500 meters high, can travel up to 100 km and carry four passengers, in addition to the pilot. When autonomous, the capacity must increase to six passengers.
Company receives order from Australian and already has 745 orders
Embraer announced yesterday that it has received an order for ten eVTOLs from Nautilus Aviation, Australian helicopter operator. So far, the Brazilian company has already received an order to deliver 745 “flying cars”, which has encouraged the market and made Embraer shares rise – in the year, the increase is almost 130%.
There is still great expectation in the financial market regarding to Eve’s merger with Spac (specific purpose acquisition company) Crafts. Eve’s CEO, Andre Stein, claims to be “comfortable” with the progress of the negotiations. With the transaction, Eve could reach a market value of $2 billion.