Australian hydrogen-electric aircraft developer AMSL Aero is taking a long-range view of potential use cases for its in-development Vertiia aircraft, targeting intra-city operations rather than urban air taxi services.

That is according to company chair Chris Smallhorn, who tells FlightGlobal during the Singapore air show that Vertiia’s range and endurance will ultimately set it apart from a crowded electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) market.

“Why emphasise range and endurance? Australia’s big,” he says. ”If we could only move around that 150km range, the reality in Australia is that you are locked into city operations. We will be pursuing particularly the regional and emergency medical services at the beginning.” 


Source: AMSL Aero

An early prototype of AMSL proposed hydrogen-electric Vertiia vehicle has completed an initial flight-test programme 

Co-founded by chief engineer Andrew Moore and chief operating office Siobhan Lyndon about six years ago, AMSL is led by chief executive Max York. The company is headquartered in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown. 

The start-up’s proposed Vertiia aircraft will have a maximum range of 540nm (1,000km) and a payload of 500kg (1,100lb). ”That brings you to a very comfortable four passengers, or for EMS a stretcher and two medics, plus medical equipment,” Smallhorn says. 

The aircraft’s tail features a patented V-structure “that is very, very important for structural rigidity and flutter management”, he says. Vertiia is also distinct in its “pod” design, which stores a pair of hydrogen-electric powerplants in the wings rather than underneath the cabin, and a “box wing” configuration that “remains the most efficient sub-sonic design”. 

Smallhorn says the company “almost certainly” will pursue a propulsion system based on liquid hydrogen, rather than gas. “It was just a matter of whether the ecosystem was developing at the rate that we are developing.” 

On a parallel track, AMSL is developing a pilotless military-oriented variant that will be powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system featuring a 90kW (121hp) turbogenerator.

The civil variant of Vertiia will be piloted – at least initially. 

”We’ll see where the civil sector goes on pilotless aircraft,” Smallhorn says. “Our perspective is that we’ll get there, but it’s further away. We have a great deal of public confidence that needs to be built.” 

The aircraft will recharge its batteries while it is grounded. “When it’s in a high-powered phase of flight – take-off and landing – both the fuel cell and the battery are going to be feeding the engines,” he says. 


Source: AMSL Aero

AMSL’s battery-powered prototype will progress to untethered forward flights sometime in 2024 

AMSL is not the only start-up pursuing a hydrogen-electric VTOL design. Swiss firm Sirius Aviation is targeting 2025 for a first flight of a demonstrator of its planned hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft. But it stands alone in Australia as a unique class of conceptual aircraft, Smallhorn says. “Our competition is the world.” 

Last year, AMSL conducted about 40 tethered hover flights with a purely battery-powered prototype at its flight test facilities in regional New South Wales, focusing on vertical take-off and landing. It plans to progress to forward flight this year and then begin assembling an advanced prototype of its civil variant, which will feature a hydrogen fuel cell. The company is currently assembling a prototype of its military variant. 

AMSL is gearing up for a round of Series C funding this year and is pushing for certification of Vertiia with Australia’s Civil Aviation Authority by early 2027. 

While the start-up has been flying relatively under the radar to date, that will change as the aircraft’s design matures, Smallhorn says: ”When we know we’ve got it right, we’ll tell our story louder and louder.”