UK start-up Samad Aerospace has entered the preliminary design review phase on its e-Starling hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, and has set out an ambitious plan to bring the six-seater to market by 2022, with a the 10-seat Starling Jet to follow two years later.
The Cranfield-based company says the PDR process should be completed by February 2019 when most of the system suppliers will have been selected.
Samad is talks with Thales and Garmin for the aircraft's avionics, while the gas turbine generator will be provided by either Honeywell or Pratt & Whitney Canada, it says.
"We expect to wrap up the critical design review in May and then move on to detailed design," says Samad founder and chief executive Seyed Mohseni.
Samad is seeking investment of around £205 million ($260 million) to bring both aircraft to market. It recently signed a term sheet with private equity investors for funding of £40 million, which Samad will be required to match.
"We need £80 million to complete the current phase of development," says Mohseni. "This includes building the first full-scale e-Starling prototype, and launching the flight-test campaign, which we plan to start in 2020." The remaining £125 million will fund the certification effort and launch production of the Starling family.
The company is hoping to attract significant investment in the operation from the UK government.
Mohseni says the country is Samad's first choice of location for its research and development centre and manufacturing operation, "and with Brexit looming, this is an ideal opportunity for the UK to promote and develop its home-grown businesses".
If the investment is not forthcoming from the UK, Samad will "explore opportunities" in the Middle East and North America. "We have had a lot of interest in the programme from international parties," says Mohseni.
The eStarling will be propelled by four electric-powered fans: two on the trailing edge of the wing thrusting vertically, and two units embedded in the aircraft’s blended wing body, which are only used during vertical flight. The Starling Jet has an extra engine on the tail to provide additional range.
A generator will provide electricity to drive both the main fans and charge the batteries, with only the cells used for vertical operations, including take-offs. Samad recently completed hover and transition tests using a 20% scale model.
Samad expects the e-Starling to be fully electric by 2030, as battery technology improves. "We will gradually increase the electric element until the aircraft is fully electric," says Mohseni.
Designed for shorter journeys, the $6.5 million e-Starling has a projected range of 350nm (650km) and a top speed of 260kt (481km/h). The $12 million Starling Jet has an expected range of 1,500nm and a top speed of 400kt.
The pair are targeted at air taxi, corporate, VIP and air ambulance operators. "The aircraft will create a new opportunity for quick, clean, energy-efficient transport with zero emissions in urban areas," says Mohseni.
To date, Samad has secured letters of intent for 109 aircraft, of which more than 80 are for the e-Starling, including 50 examples from an undisclosed air ambulance provider.
Source: Flight International