Volocopter’s 2X eVTOL records a first with flight at Helsinki International Airport – gpgmail


The Volocopter 2X air taxi vehicle is now the first electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft to fly at an international airport, fully integrated into the same airspace as other commercial passenger craft. It performed this key milestone flight at Helsinki International Airport, in a demonstration mission that showed it successfully integrated with both traditional air traffic management, and air traffic management systems designed specifically for aircraft with no pilot on board controlling the vehicle manually.

The test is intended to show that air traffic management systems which are designed for both traditional piloted flight and autonomous aircraft, including air robotaxis, can operate in concert with one another, even in areas with dense sky traffic – including over cities in future.

Volocopter, which recently unveiled a new version of its eVTOL which it intends to be the version that goes into commercial service once it launches for paying customers, ran tests at Helsinki airport along with AirMap, Altitude Angel and Unifly, all providers of air traffic management services for unpiloted aerial craft. Through the test, they determined that the Volocopter systems work well with each provider, which is a key step towards gaining certification for commercial flight.

The German startup will be flying its 2X vehicle at an event in Stuttgart on September 14, but its next major milestone will be unveiling the new VoloCity commercial craft and its prototype VoloPort take-off and landing facility in Singapore later this year.


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Amelia Earhart Expedition Ends With Potential Clues, but No Answers


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Robert Ballard’s expedition to Nikumaroro to search for evidence of Amelia Earhart’s final resting place has ended without locating the Lockheed Electra. The search isn’t heading back entirely empty-handed — a land-based search party is still working on the island, and National Geographic pointed to a silver sheet of metal with what appear to be rivet holes as potentially being an artifact connected to the lost Earhart aircraft  — but no firm or final artifact was found to mark the spot where Earhart landed.

Ballard focused his search in the northwest corner of the island, near the lagoon. There were multiple reasons to focus on this location. The so-called Bevington Photo, taken by Cadet Officer Eric Bevington, while leaving Nikumaroro — then called Gardner Island — shows a strange object (inside the red circle) sticking up above the waves. The photo was initially discovered by TIGHAR, which has led searches for Earhart for decades.

Bevington Photo

The Bevington Photo. SS Norwich City in the background.

An enlarged image of that object is shown below:

When we ran our deep dive on Amelia Earhart and the search for her aircraft, one of our readers — a senior mechanical engineer at a U.S. electronics manufacturer — contacted us with a bit of sleuthing they’d done on their own time. He used multiple AI programs to sharpen the enhanced version of that image, and writes:

The first program I used, Sharpen A.I., has three modes: Shapen, Focus, and Stabilize. I tried all three and found that using Stabilize worked best. The photo was oversampled given its limited resolution so there is more “blur” than “information.” However, there was still a very small amount of vertical motion in the camera when the photo shot, resulting in some vertical motion blur, which Focus A.I. can do amazingly good work with.

Then I used Gigapixel A.I. to double the pixel count. When you have genuine information to work with (sharp images limited by resolution), Gigapixel A.I. can sometimes give results that truly astonish. There’s so little real information in the Bevington Object photo that the improvement afforded by Gigapixel A.I. was pretty limited. But the improvement seemed to be there, so I kept it.

After doubling the pixel count with Gigapixel A.I., I then halved the resolution (restoring it to its original 343-pixel width) using the Preview app in MacOS. To me, frankly, the sharpened photo appears more like water breaking over a rock than anything else. The way people’s vision system recognizes objects is heavily influenceable by suggestion.

The sharpened version of the AI image is below:

stablize double half (1)

In our larger write-up on the topic, we discuss why the Bevington Photo was considered to be such potentially powerful evidence that the Lockheed Electra had landed in this spot. Despite extensively surveying the target search zone and underwater canyons and “chutes” that descend from the coast of Nikumaroro, Ballard and his team found little of note.

There is, however, some cause for hope. National Geographic writes that the land search team may have found fragments of the skull found on Nikumaroro back in 1940. Once theorized to belong to Earhart, the skull and other bones were thought lost in WW2. The skull is being reconstructed and will be DNA-tested in the next few months. Nat Geo doesn’t provide any further information on the status of the land team, but the DNA analysis of those bone fragments might just answer this question once and for all. If we can’t find the wreckage of the Electra or any objects guaranteed to be associated with it, DNA evidence of either Earhart or her navigator, Fred Noonan would also confirm the story.

Ballard, meanwhile, is heading to Howland and Baker Islands — Howland was Earhart’s original destination — to map the undersea areas around both of them. He has no plans to return to the Earhart search but knows where he’d look if he did: the southern part of the island, where there are beaches and a potential campsite that may have been associated with the castaways.

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Bell’s innovative VTOL cargo craft takes its first successful autonomous flight – gpgmail


Bell Helicopter’s catchily-named Autonomous Pod Transport 70 (aka APT 70) has managed a major milestone, performing its first autonomous flight during a test at its Forth Worth providing ground. The aircraft is a small vertical take-off and landing craft that users four rotors to provide lift and propulsion once it’s in the air, and it’s a prototype for what Bell hopes will eventually be a small autonomous commercial cargo craft.

APT 70 has a max speed of over 100 mph, and can carry 70 lbs on board, which is good for a fair range of potential applications, including package delivery and even things like humanitarian and rescue missions. Because of the way it flies, switching from vertical to horizontal orientation for its rotors, it can fly much faster than traditional rotor-based aircraft given similar size and power constraints.

Bell’s goal with APT 70 is to successfully simulate a commercial mission as part of the NASA Systems Integration and Operationalization demo set to take place sometime in the middle of next year. This demonstration aims show how the aircraft can be intreated with centralized command and control and obstacle avoidance technologies, a key step in readying autonomous aircraft for commercial service in the U.S.

In addition to its U.S. demonstration mission with NASA, Bell is working with Japanese logistics company Yamato, and hopes to have their first collaborative product in market for on-demand customer deliveries sometime in the middle of next year.


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Volocopter reveals its first commercial aircraft, the VoloCity air taxi – gpgmail


It’s a race to the skies in terms of which company actually deploys an on-demand air taxi service based around electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft – for its part, German startup Volocopter is taking another key step with the revelation of its first aircraft designed for actual commercial use, the VoloCity.

The VoloCity is the fourth-generation eVTOL vehicle that Volocopter has created, but the first three were created for testing and demonstration purposes, and have flown over 1,000 times in service of that goal. The VoloCity, an 18-rotor VTOL with a range of around 35 km (just under 22 miles) and a top speed of about 70 mph, is designed for transporting up to two people, including light luggage like backpacks, briefcases or purses.

VoloCity Top

Volocopter has paid close attention to safety and comfort with this design, meeting the safety standards set by the European Aviation Sfey Agency, and including a new stabilizer that hasn’t been a part of the test aircraft, in rod to provide more stability during flight.

Now, Voloctoper says it’s turning its attention to infrastructure and ecosystem development, which includes establishing its ‘VoloPorts’ for take-off and landing, as well as working with cities on air traffic control. The company says it’s meeting already with global operators that serve this purpose, including Fraport, which runs the Frankfurt International Airport.

As for when VoloCity moves from render to reality, Volocopter says that it’s targeting a first public test flight for Q4 of this year in Singapore, where it’ll also show off the prototype of first first VoloPort, pictured in concept images below.


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Kitty Hawk’s Flyer personal VTOL has now flown over 25,000 times – gpgmail


Flying cars, or at least their functional equivalent, edge closer to reality every day – and startup Kitty Hawk wants you to know it’s putting in the flying time to make it happen. The company, led by former Google self-driving car visionary Sebastian Thrun, has now flown its first aircraft, the one-person Flyer, over 25,000 times. That includes both its excursions as a prototype that resembled a flying motorcycle or ATV, and in its current, more refined, mostly enclosed cockpit design.

Flyer is now one of two aircraft that Kitty Hawk is working on bringing to market, alongside its Cora two-person, autonomous taxi built in collaboration with Boeing. Flyer is a one-person, human piloted aircraft designed primarily for recreational use, and Kitty Hawk has said it’s refined the vehicle to the point where someone with no experience can learn to fly it in 15 minutes. The company is currently looking for applications for potential partners who want to deploy it in their communities, and it does seem like the type of thing that might do well as an organized excursion activity at a travel destination or resort.

There’s no info on pricing or actual availability yet, but there was a limited Founder Series pre-order for individual purchasers with deep pockets. The aircraft features pontoons and is designed for use over water, and it can fly between three and 10 ft above the surface with vertical take-off and landing capabilities.

Personally, I’d probably opt for the flying jet-ski over paragliding if it was on offer at a vacation spot, so here’s hoping this actually finds a path to commercialization somewhat soon.


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