I recently got a tip about a really cool project to create an affordable and easy to use personal aircraft. Of course I wanted to find out more, so I contacted Airvinci, the company behind the project, to find out more. What they shared with me makes it look like the future of personal transportation is upon us.
What is Airvinci?
We are a small Torontonian Start-up developing a new type of aircraft that will make personal flights on a daily basis possible. At Airvinci, we are currently 12 people working from several different countries on the project. We are close to finishing the work on our first prototype and start with test flights later this summer.
Our VTOL aircraft is compact (7ft wide), safe (2 separate engines, ballistic parachute), easy to use and yet still affordable. The design is versatile and can carry a pilot/passenger cabin or cargo – in a closed capsule or as a sling load. The weight is about 254 lbs and therefore it can get licensed as an ultra-light aircraft, simplifying requirements for pilots. The drone version we have now as a prototype can be remote controlled and we are planning systems for an autonomous flight as well. This way our aircraft will also be available as a next generation aircraft for scenic flights, taxis rides and lift for skydivers.
How did the idea for Airvinci come about? What has the process of development been like?
The Founder of Airvinci, Tarek Ibrahim, made first designs for a vertical take-off and landing aircraft back in his years at the University of Toronto, when he was fed up with being stuck in gridlock traffic. Later, by the end of 2014, he was in a tech accelerator program and decided to pursue the idea from 10 years before.
In the last 1.5 years, more people joined the project. Everything was designed from scratch except for the engines. Two main challenges have been completely designing the gearbox ourselves and production process of duct and rotors. It took us several attempts to have perfect method and material selection. Now, we are confident that we have designed the perfect aircraft.
Who have the key players on the team been during development?
The central and most important person has been the founder Tarek himself. He knows the whole aircraft by heart, coordinates all the work and has done many all night-all weekend work sessions.
Alex has been a part of the project from the very beginning when he joined Tarek on a road trip to Montreal, where Tarek had bought aircraft engines. As an engineer, Alex is responsible for the powertrain.
Markus and Meg are the two main responsible for communications and business development. Often disagreeing in the beginning of discussions, at the end of these late night meetings they come up with efficient ways to bring the company around the helicopter forward.
How soon will Airvinci be available? Have there been any hiccups on the way in terms of product development and release?
We are on the final steps with our first prototype and close to the assembly. First test flights are planned soon, with more test flights later this summer. If everything goes as planned, we expect to have the drone version ready for the market by Late-2017. The helicopter version will follow with test flights in the subsequent year. Some extended functions like remote controlled flights or even our planned autonomous flights will take more time to develop and also depend on new laws and regulations that have to be made.
As with every new invention, there have been tons of uncertainties in the beginning and we have been too optimistic on some assumptions. We underestimated how long it would take us to develop and built some components (e.g. duct or rotors). By the end of 2014, we intended to already fly by late summer 2015 and now we are about to achieve this milestone one year later.
Yet, we have learned a lot from these experiences. Also our planning today is more qualified than it has been in the beginning. These learning processes help us to plan and keep our schedules better. Furthermore, with regard to the manufacturing process, the things we have learned will help us immensely once we start with a larger scale production.
Who is Airvinci for?
In the future, our helicopter and our drone will be for all of us. For example, the helicopter version could function as a new type of taxi and the drone version could make direct delivery of larger goods, such as TVs or washing machines, much faster.
As primary users, we expect emergency first responders (coast guards or wildfire departments), logistic providers (e.g. Amazon or FedEx) and of course avid hobby pilots (the helicopter will classify as an Ultra-Light) to be first adopters.
What features make Airvinci stand out compared to other similar ideas?
It is true that there are currently several more or less similar ideas for aircrafts that could be used as some sort of “flying car”. We are convinced that our design has advantages in terms of ease of use (e.g. excellent weight balance), safety (e.g. two separate engines), flight time and range, versatility (unmanned cargo drone as well as ultra-light aircraft), comfort (e.g. closed cabin where the pilot can sit inside) and also lower costs (use of well-known aircraft engines makes maintenance and repair significantly cheaper).
Finally, we don’t intend to compete over price, since we are convinced to have the better concept; nonetheless, our calculations so far will allow us to offer the Airvinci Helicopter for prices far below other aircraft, making it available to a much broader range of users that could not afford this flight experience otherwise.
Are there any other projects or ideas your company is working on?
Currently we are mainly focussing on the development of the drone version. After successful tests, we will further improve the design, develop the pilot cabin and subsequently the systems for autonomous flight. The last step however depends to a high extent on the implementation of new laws and regulations that will allow those flights.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
We will live stream our test flights to show to our supporters and followers from all around the world. Sign up to see the test flights live!