Aviation giant Airbus is expanding its efforts to develop advanced air mobility (AAM) and air taxi services with a project to prepare operation of its CityAirbus NextGen electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) craft in Japan.
Airbus said work to ready its CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL for AAM and air taxi use in Japan’s Kansai region will transpire under a partnership with Hiratagakuen, a leading provider of helicopter services. As part of that activity approved by the Osaka Prefecture, the companies will map out and test optimal flight routes, establish operational and safety systems, and organize a demonstration flight before the end of the year.
In addition to pursuing the groundwork – and airspace preparation – for AAM transportation, Airbus says the partnership will explore other kinds of uses of its eVTOL plane, including medical activities, emergency response, ecotourism, a variety of public services, and flights beyond the urban confines of most air taxi operation.
As part of that exploratory project, Hiratagakuen will use one of its H135 helicopters to test advanced navigation and communication technologies for the safe operation of eVTOL craft in city environments, and simulate CityAirbus NextGen’s flight configuration.
The current prototype of the piloted, three-passenger fixed-wing CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL was unveiled in September, with the company recently saying it will also build a dedicated center to test the AAM craft on its journey through certification and air taxi production launch. The company hopes to begin trial flights in 2023, and awaiting that, has rolled out initiatives to prepare for next-generation air mobility in Italy and Germany.
Expansion of those AAM activities into Japan is a logical step for Airbus, which hopes to transform its past success in traditional air transport into similarly productive eVTOL AAM and air taxi sales. Over the past 60 years, the manufacturer has delivered over 600 fixed-wing planes and rotorcraft to Japanese operators – including Hiratagakuen.
Along with the US and European Union nations, Airbus is looking to Japan as one of its most promising markets for next-generation aircraft.
“We are honored to further our long-standing collaboration with Hiratagakuen by working on this exciting journey towards zero emission flights,” said Airbus head of UAM strategy execution and partnerships Balkiz Sarihan. “Their expertise in commercial air transport and air medical services operations makes them an ideal partner for defining the operational framework for advanced air mobility with CityAirbus NextGen in Japan”.