Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Aircraft have always been seen as an ideal for military applications – they do not require a specialist runway and use less physical space and infrastructure to get into the air and land.  There is a history of various attempts to create a successful VTOL aircraft; but perhaps the most recognisable and infamous example is the Hawker Siddeley Harrier Jump Jet which first entered service with the RAF as long ago as 1969.

Of course, rotorcraft such as helicopters and many modern drones are also part of the wide range of VTOL aircraft.

In recent years, there has been a wide range of interest from aircraft manufacturers, automobile manufacturers and small start up companies in creating electric VTOL aircraft (eVTOLs) which can be used to provide a range of personal transport solutions, from air-taxis and flying cars, to emergency response vehicles.  The benefits of these eVTOL aircraft is that they are quiet, can operate with a minimum of infrastructure, and will help avoid the highly congested roadways by adding a third dimension to the daily commute.

As a result there were over 200 eVTOL projects in development in June 2019, and as of February 2021, there is growing interest, with United Airlines placing over $1 billion worth of orders for eVTOL aircraft.  Some of these projects are aiming to use autonomous technology to assist the pilot (or even remote piloting).

Whilst any autonomous vehicle will have to undergo legal regulation before it can be released to the public; the complexities in creating and regulating autonomous vehicles are numerous and it is already proving difficult to obtain proper regulation for  autonomous cars, let alone autonomous aircraft where there are fewer cues that the aircraft can use.  Further, eVTOL’s will have to develop flight plans and communicate with other aircraft, as well as take account of not only pedestrians and animals on the ground (when taking off or landing), but also complications such as overhead cables; birds; cranes and other man made structures which may appear above or below the aircraft.

Advanced VTOL Crash Prevention Limited have already identified that there is an issue over safety regulation for eVTOLs and we are already taking a key part in the formation of the EASA safety standards for Emergency Descent Arrest Systems.  To fit alongside this, we have developed our own innovative Zero-Zero Safety Systen for eVTOL aircraft to help ensure that crashes are survivable.