Lithuanian start-up Jetcopter is seeking investment of around $60 million to bring to market a six-seat vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, which it describes as a low-cost alternative to medium-class rotary- and fixed-wing types.
Called the Jetcopter, it will be powered by two 665shp (495kW) all-aluminium, twin-turbocharged automotive engines. These will drive a tail-mounted ducted fan for forward flight and a pair of centrifugal counter-rotating fans – located above the fuselage – designed to draw air into the system, before it is blown out of swivelling wing-tip ducts to provide vertical lift.
The aircraft also has an emergency parachute "for an extra layer of safety". Range of around 540nm (1,000km) is projected, along with a top speed of 160kt (300km/h).
A hybrid-electric version is also proposed, with four 335shp (250kW) electric motors, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, replacing the automotive engines during the VTOL phases of flight, says Jetcopter.
Headquartered in Siauliai, in central Lithuania, Jetcopter is the brainchild of engineer Donatas Skulskis. He also the founder and chief executive of automotive parts supplier PB Group, which has funded the project to date.
His experience in this sector persuaded Skulskis to use a converted auto engine rather than a traditional aircraft powerplant.
"Light and powerful automotive piston engines are widely available and so much cheaper to operate, purchase and maintain than aero engines," Skulskis says.
The result is also a more attractive price tag for the carbonfibre Jetcopter of around $600,000. It is "significantly cheaper than similar-size helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and other in-development VTOL [designs]", he says.
The company tested several designs before settling on the current configuration.
"We evaluated many small-scale versions of the Jetcopter with four, three, two and even one-rotor layouts, and this is the optimum design," says Skulskis.
The platform is aimed at several markets, including air ambulance, cargo and passenger transport, as well as the urban air mobility sector. "With its ability to transport up to five passengers at once, the Jetcopter is an ideal vehicle to help move people around congested cities. There is certainly no shortage of demand," Skulskis adds.
Jetcopter is initially seeking $6 million to build the first prototype and launch the flight-test campaign.
"We are in talks with potential investors," says Skulskis. "Once we have the money, we can build the aircraft quickly and start flying. The rest of the funding should follow once the programme has reached significant development milestones."