Santa Ana, California, startup Overair is not only aiming to become a global player in electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturing, it also wants to revolutionize the propulsion technologies most advanced air mobility (AAM) companies rely on with what it says is a quieter, more efficient large propeller system.
Overair recently took a significant step forward in the development of its Butterfly five-passenger eVTOL craft by kicking off the test program of its full-scale large propeller propulsion prototype. The initial series included a trial in the exacting conditions of the California desert, and marked the beginning of Overair putting the main components of its future craft through the paces. With that process now underway, the company believes it will be able to work toward the first test flight of a fully assembled Butterfly by 2023.
“Achieving our full-scale propulsion test goals is an exciting milestone for the Butterfly program,” said Jim Orbon, Overair’s Butterfly program manager. “Not only does it allow us to validate our design choices and correlate our simulation results to real-world data, but it also proves the team’s technical capabilities and ability to execute our development plans. But this milestone is a means to an end. Next stop, full-scale prototype, with long-lead-time parts currently underway.”
Overair says its vectored thrust design is more aerodynamically efficient than tech most eVTOL aircraft use, and makes the Butterfly a fundamentally different vehicle than other AAM craft under development. The concept leverages the company’s proprietary propulsion system employing very large propellers, and combines that with what it says is highly efficient wing-borne flight permitting cruising over longer distances per charge than most eVTOL vehicles.
Due to their XL size, meanwhile, Butterfly’s propellers are able to spin at decreased revolutions during hover, transition, and other phases of operation, making them quieter and less of a drain on batteries. Their power and control margins, Overair says, provides the large propeller system with unrivaled efficiency, which it believes will be valuable to clients flying the eVTOL on high-tempo urban routes in changing environments.
Proof of that aerial pudding will be in the eating, which is why Overair plans on pushing its Butterfly development toward full flight testing by 2023. To get there, the company says it will focus on craft flight control systems, tilting mechanisms, and the cabin interior once trials of the propulsion system prototype are complete. Overair believes it can obtain Federal Aviation Certification for its new tech eVTOL in time for it to enter commercial service in 2026.
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