Vertical Aerospace and Rolls-Royce are to split from their agreement covering design of an electric propulsion unit for the eVTOL manufacturer.

Under the mutually-agreed decision, Rolls-Royce will pay an undisclosed cash sum to Vertical in order to cover the costs of seeking an alternative EPU design contract.

The Rolls-Royce EPU was supposed to have been delivered later this year.

But Rolls-Royce revealed last November that it planned to find a buyer for its electrical division, which carries out electric propulsion development for advanced air mobility activities.

“Vertical is already working with other EPU suppliers and there is no expected impact on the completion of Vertical’s prototypes or certification timelines,” the eVTOL firm has disclosed in a first-quarter briefing.

The company – which designed the VX4 eVTOL – is working on a new prototype, and has drawn up a shortlist of potential EPU partners for the certification and production aircraft.

VX4 complete-c-Vertical Aerospace

Source: Vertical Aerospace

Vertical will seek an alternative EPU supplier after Rolls-Royce opted to sell its electrical arm

Final assembly of the prototype is “nearing completion”, it states, and this aircraft is on track to begin its test programme ahead of planned public demonstrations later this year.

Vertical says it features “more advanced” propellers which will use proprietary battery technology and will “align closely” with the eventual certification example.

The company says it is preparing to receive a permit to fly from the UK civil aviation regulator, in order to conduct flight-test work, in the “coming weeks” and is maintaining an end-2026 certification target.

Vertical suffered a setback to VX4 development in August last year when its initial prototype was wrecked in an accident at the UK’s Cotswold airport.

The aircraft had been undergoing a remotely-piloted test flight to evaluate performance with one EPU inactive.

But a blade separated from one of the EPUs and the aircraft, which had been hovering, subsequently experienced a load imbalance and wiring damage, losing thrust from two other EPUs and descending before colliding with the ground.

The prototype under development uses EPUs from a different, and undisclosed, supplier.

Newly-appointed chief executive Stuart Simpson says Vertical is “within touching distance” of commencing the flight-test programme for this “more sophisticated” version of the VX4.

“This aircraft represents a huge leap forward along our path to certification,” he adds.

Vertical reveals in its financial statement that it generated an operating loss of £20 million ($22 million) for the first three months of this year, similar to the £23 million figure for the same period in 2023.

It says it had cash totalling £49 million at the end of the quarter including £19.5 million from its founder which it will use to create an “identical twin” VX4 prototype.

Under the separation agreement with Rolls-Royce, the engine manufacturer will return to Vertical the shares in the company it acquired as a private investor in 2021.