For UK start-up and EBACE exhibitor Samad Aerospace, introducing the first electric and hybrid-electric-powered, vertical takeoff and landing business aircraft is not enough of a challenge. The Starling Jet also integrates that exotic propulsion system into a rarely-seen, blended wing-body airframe.
Despite the scale of the technical challenge, the Cranfield-based company isn’t moving slowly. Samad plans to deliver the first 10-occupant hybrid-electric Starling Jet and seven-occupant e-Starling before 2024, says chief executive and founder Seyed Mohseni.
The hybrid-electric Starling Jet first broke cover in February at the Singapore air show, revealing a turboelectric generator driving five fan thrusters for a range of 1,300nm. The $12 million (£9.1 million) concept also features a blended wing-body airframe. At EBACE, Samad is also showing the $6.36 million e-Starling, offering a non-stop range up to about 350nm.
Using electric motors developed by partners Warwick Manufacturing Group and Nottingham University, Samad has revealed plans to fly a half-scale optionally manned prototype within 18 months. First flight of a full-scale prototype would follow in 2021, with EASA certification to come by 2023, Mohseni says.
Although the project is technically ambitious, the designers are trying to simplify where they can. The conversion from hover to cruise mode is a particular focus for the hybrid-electric configuration, Mohseni says. The Starling Jet rises vertically and hovers using a 10min-supply of batteries to power four vertical fan thrusters, including two installed on the wing trailing edge that can rotate forward in cruise mode. As the aircraft transitions to forward flight, the turboelectric generator comes on-line, feeding electric motors for the fan thrusters only after the ducts are pointing forward, Mohseni says.
The project still depends on an ongoing fundraising effort. Samad plans to raise a total of $53 million, including $6.63 million this year, $19.9 million next year and $26.5 million in 2020. At that point, Samad’s business plan calls for financing the rest of the development and certification phase through financing revenues, he adds.