Aston Martin is not a name one associates with aviation, but the luxury car maker is hoping to change that with the introduction of a high-end, three-seat hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft targeted at the wealthy elite.
The concept, known as the Volante Vision, is making its international debut at Farnborough, where Aston Martin and its UK partners Cranfield University, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and Rolls-Royce are seeking to drum up interest in the project.
“This is a new line in luxury urban mobility,” says Aston Martin vice-president and chief marketing officer Simon Sproule. “We started our journey around 18 months ago by approaching Cranfield with a design, which they validated," he continues. "Rolls-Royce came on board around six months ago, and together we have produced what we believe will be a very successful programme.”
He says Aston Martin “sells a dream”, and any product the company produces has to be “beautiful, so it captures customers hearts and minds”.
The Volante is an electric aircraft that gets its power from a R-R model 250 gas turbine configured as a generator to drive its three propellers.
The aircraft is projected to have a top speed of 175kt (320km/h), and a 400km range – putting Paris easily within reach of London.
Sproule says Aston Martin is “very serious” about the aircraft market. “That’s why we are launching the Volante at an air show rather than a motor show. It’s a credible concept – there is a growing market for this type of vehicle.”
The company will carry out an international demonstration tour with the concept to garner customer feedback. “If it is overwhelmingly positive, we will proceed with full-scale development early in the next decade,” Sproule says.
With the price tag in the “seven-figures”, the Volante will appeal to air taxi operators and wealthy owner-flyers, Sproule says. “Many Aston Martin car owners already fly their own helicopters and private jets, so this aircraft should be very appealing,” he says.