That idea might be closer to reality than you think.

An Austrian startup called FlyNow Aviation is developing an auto-piloted electric helicopter, or eCopter, that aims to revolutionize urban air mobility. An eCopter is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft that uses a coaxial drive train with two-rotor propellers. Unlike a drone, which has multiple rotors, an eCopter has only two, making it more efficient and stable. It also has the advantage of being able to use existing regulations for certification. This means that the eCopter could be certified faster and cheaper than other eVTOL designs.

Flynow’s eCopter comes in three versions, depending on the function, payload and type of powertrain. The cargo version, C200B, can carry up to 441 pounds of goods, while the passenger versions, P1B and P2B, can seat one or two people, respectively.The B at the end stands for the battery-electric powertrain, which uses lithium-ion batteries to power the motors. However, the eCopter is also preparing for a hydrogen fuel cell version, which will be denoted by an H. This will allow for a longer range and lower emissions.

All three versions of the eCopter should have a flight/battery range of up to 31 miles and a cruising speed of 81 mph. If its predictions are correct, FlyNow believes you should be able to use its air taxis for the same cost as those you already pay for on the ground.One of the main challenges of eVTOL aircraft is the low energy density of batteries, which limits the range and endurance of the flights. Therefore, the drive train efficiency is key for the successful implementation of eVTOL aircraft. One of the factors that affect the efficiency is the rotor disk loading, which is the ratio of the weight of the aircraft to the area of the rotor disk. The lower the rotor disk loading, the more efficient the aircraft.

The coaxial rotor design has a lower rotor disk loading than a quadcopter-like design because it uses two rotors stacked on top of each other instead of four rotors spread around the body. This means that the coaxial rotor design can generate more lift with less power and also reduce the noise and vibration. The coaxial rotor design is so efficient NASA chose it for its Mars Helicopter “ingenuity,” which had to fly in an atmosphere that is only 1/100th as dense as Earth’s.There are many companies that are developing eVTOL aircraft for urban air mobility, such as eHang, Joby, Archer and others. Each of them has its own vision and design, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. However, the FlyNow Aviation team believes its main unique selling point and distinguishing feature is affordability.

It wants to make its aircraft accessible to the general public, not just the wealthy elite. The company is inspired by the history of mobility, where new means of transport became successful when they were affordable for the masses. For example, Ford with the Model T in the U.S. and Volkswagen with the Beetle in Europe.

The FlyNow Aviation team follows the same philosophy and aims to create a simple but intelligent and robust eVTOL aircraft that can be mass-produced and operated at low costs. They also want to create a positive social and environmental impact by reducing congestion, pollution and accidents on the roads.FlyNow Aviation’s eCopter project started with two generations of scaled models, which were used to test the software and control systems. Then, the team moved on to a full-scale proof of concept, which was tested last summer.

The proof of concept demonstrated the mechanical, electrical, acoustic and systemic performance of the eCopter and validated the simulation results. The team is now working on the series development, which will incorporate the feedback and improvements from the testing phase.FlyNow Aviation plans to start commercial operation in 2026 with the cargo version C200B. The first customers will be companies that already have experience in the aviation industry, such as logistics, delivery, emergency and medical services.

After the cargo version, the passenger versions P1B and P2B will be introduced to the market in the second step. This will depend on the availability of a functioning infrastructure, such as vertiports, charging stations, air traffic management and public acceptance. FlyNow Aviation believes a step-by-step approach will reduce the technical, financial and regulatory risks for all parties involved.

The eCopter is an innovative and ambitious project that wants to bring urban air mobility to the masses. By using a coaxial rotor design, various versions and a step-by-step approach, the FlyNow Aviation team hopes to overcome the technical, financial and regulatory challenges that face the eVTOL industry. The team is confident its aircraft will be ready for commercial operation in 2026 and that it will offer a safe, efficient and sustainable way of flying over traffic.

By Impact Lab