German electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) developer Volocopter has signed a deal with avionics specialist Diehl Aerospace to create an optical fly-by-light flight control system for its VoloCity air taxis.
The Volocopter-Diehl partnership aims to update the most recent technologies in airplane flight control systems and create a new version for the eVTOL VoloCity air taxi. Central to that is the departure from the lever-operation fly-by-wire approaches used in Airbus planes to a fly-by-light variation in which optic signals will command the vehicle. That will be part of a broader platform also integrating an optical splitter to complement the flight control system, as well as backup computers and components overseeing battery management.
Volocopter said the optical splitter will provide control information to VoloCity eVTOL, and define the operation of the air taxi’s 18 rotors and other critical components. Unlike currently used conventional airplane fly-by-wire systems – which send manually generated commands through copper wires – the new navigational solution will translate electronic signals from the flight controller into optical instructions dispatched as light through optic fibers.
The result will be immediate transmission of precisely measured command values to eVTOL navigational equipment, and enhanced performance and safety of VoloCity air taxis.
Volocopter says the fly-by-light system is considered to be immune to electromagnetic interference – from cellphones or transmission towers, for example. That impermeability to outside signals is a main security consideration given the low altitudes at which air taxis are expected to operate.
The agreement also assigns Diehl the work of developing a Data Concentration Unit (DCU) for Volocopter, which will serve as the counterpart to the optical splitter. The DCU will collect optical signals from VoloCity’s 18 rotors via an optical interface, and convert them into digital data for the eVTOL air taxi’s avionics. The pairing will provide the pilot with information on engine speed and temperature.
The partnership draws on Diehl’s deep experience in traditional airplane avionics, and helps transition the company toward upgraded tech for next-generation aircraft.
“We are excited to further expand our partnership with Volocopter, an innovative pioneer in the (urban air mobility) market, bringing our many years of experience and expertise in flight control systems to the table,” said Florian Maier, CEO of Diehl Aerospace.
In addition to the flight control system, Diehl will supply sub-components for the system monitoring and managing VoloCity batteries, and providing energy information to pilots while in flight.