Businesswire | April 13, 2023
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded Merlin, the leading developer of safe autonomous flight technology for fixed-wing aircraft, a $1 million contract to demonstrate a highly automated flight control system in conjunction with a safety pilot. In partnership with the FAA designated University of Alaska Fairbanks UAS Test Site and Everts Air Cargo, the Merlin Pilot will be the first autonomy system integrated into the NAS. Flight trials will run along three test routes serving five destinations. All test routes originate from the FAA designated UAS Alaska test site in Q2 2023.
Last year, Merlin announced a $105 million Series B financing along with key partnerships with the United States Air Force, the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, and the FAA. The funding has allowed Merlin to continue developing its integrated hardware and software solution known as the Merlin Pilot.
“Alaska’s terrain and inclement weather can challenge the most experienced pilots. And yet remote communities rely on air cargo deliveries for vital supplies such as milk, mail, and medicine. Working with Merlin on these flight trials benefits our residents and provides data with each flight that will create not only a safer airspace in Alaska but technology that is applicable worldwide,” said Dr. Cathy Cahill, Director of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI) at the UAF Geophysical Institute.
“This program will help thousands of our state’s remote residents to acquire supplies necessary to sustain life and it’s exciting that the advent of new technologies can drive greater equity and access across our communities,” Cahill said.
The trials are set to begin in the second quarter of 2023 with an aim of reaching underserved areas of Alaska to enable better access to supplies while reducing the significant safety risk to today’s pilots. Merlin will use crewed aircraft augmented with the Merlin Pilot, its integrated hardware and software solution, to serve rural cargo destinations. During the initial testing phase, safety pilots will monitor the experimental flight control system. All routes will originate from Fairbanks and separately fly to Fort Yukon, Galena, Prudhoe Bay, Huslia and Tanana.
"The Merlin Pilot is being developed to make the skies safer and more accessible. These initial flight trials are vital to maturing our in-flight capabilities and it’s rewarding that this work will also serve a material need in the communities of Alaska," said Matthew George, co-founder and CEO of Merlin. “To date, we have conducted hundreds of missions with our Merlin Pilot on five aircraft types from our dedicated flight test facility in Mojave, California. Alongside the FAA, and our operating partner Everts Air Cargo, we’re thrilled that the Merlin Pilot will soon be learning in a real world, complex environment.”
Founded in 2018 and headquartered in Boston, with additional offices in Los Angeles, Denver, Kerikeri (NZ) and Mojave, Merlin is building the definitive autonomy system for all things that fly.
businesswire | May 22, 2023
Vertical Aerospace a global aerospace and technology company that is pioneering zero-emissions aviation, today announces that South Korean mobility technology company, Kakao Mobility, has pre-ordered up to 50 of Vertical’s VX4 aircraft, adding South Korea to Vertical’s list of customer launch markets.
Kakao Mobility, the largest Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform in South Korea with more than 30 million registered users, is the mobility subsidiary of South Korean internet giant, Kakao Corporation. Kakao Mobility runs the country’s most popular taxi-hailing app, Kakao T, providing taxi-hailing, designated driver booking, parking space search, and Kakao Navi app providing real-time traffic information services.
Vertical and Kakao Mobility will establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) to drive the commercialisation of AAM services in South Korea, including the exploration of network and fleet planning, infrastructure requirements, regulatory development, and consumer awareness of eVTOL mobility solutions.
South Korea is one of the largest economies in the world and is home to globally leading technology companies. Seoul, as well as other regions including Busan, is expected to have a significant Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market potential.
This JWG builds on Vertical’s existing consortium partnership with Kakao Mobility, LG Uplus, GS E&C, and the continued engagement with Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, for the K-UAM Grand Challenge (K-UAM GC).
The agreement with Kakao Mobility marks Vertical’s first partnership with a mobility technology company, enabling Vertical to leverage their existing customer base and vehicle network to create a seamless air-to-ground passenger journey and UAM ecosystem in the country.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical’s Founder and CEO said, “We are delighted to be partnering with Kakao Mobility. With its over 30 million registered users, Kakao Mobility is the go-to choice to ‘hail a ride’ and with our partnership, we look forward to people across South Korea being able to fly in a VX4 in the years to come. We are thrilled to be working together to make our joint vision a reality'.”
Alex Ryu, CEO of Kakao Mobility commented, “Kakao Mobility is the leading mobility platform and in an AI-enabled world with needs for faster, eco-friendly means of moving, we understand that UAM will be a game-changer in the near future. We are excited to take part in Vertical Aerospace’s mission to launch its VX4 globally and to bring an UAM service to Korean market. We will be expanding our business not only on the ground but to the sky through this partnership. As a consolidated mobility platform, Kakao Mobility will develop the “De Facto Standard” for UAM services. We look forward to collaborating closely to complete the K-UAM Grand Challenge successfully and into commercialization shortly after K-UAM GC.”
Vertical already has strong ties to South Korea with Hanwha, a key partner for the VX4 certification aircraft. Vertical is leveraging Hanwha’s four decades of industrial expertise to collaborate on the development and supply of actuator systems for the VX4.
About Vertical Aerospace
Vertical Aerospace is pioneering electric aviation. The Company was founded in 2016 by Stephen Fitzpatrick, an established entrepreneur best known as the founder of the OVO Group, a leading energy and technology group and Europe’s largest independent energy retailer. Vertical has focused on building the most experienced and senior team in the eVTOL industry, who have previously certified and supported over 30 different civil and military aircraft and propulsion systems.
Vertical’s top-tier partner ecosystem, including Rolls-Royce, Honeywell Aerospace, Leonardo and GKN Aerospace, is expected to de-risk operational execution and its pathway to certification allowing for a lean cost structure and enabling production at scale. Vertical has a leading pre-order book from a diverse global customer base, creating multiple potential near term and actionable routes to market. Customers include airlines, aircraft lessors, helicopter operators and tourism groups, including American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Avolon, Bristow, Marubeni, Iberojet and FLYINGGROUP, as well as Japan Airlines (JAL), Gol, Air Greenland, Gozen Holding and AirAsia, through Avolon’s VX4 placements.
Vertical’s VX4 eVTOL is projected to be capable of transporting a pilot and up to four passengers, traveling distances of up to 100 miles, and achieving a cruise speed of 150 miles per hour, while producing minimal noise and zero operating emissions.
Vertical’s VX4 prototype has successfully undertaken piloted flight tests and it is now in the next stages of the flight test programme, which is expected to reach higher altitudes and speeds, as well as demonstrating the transition from vertical to horizontal flight.
DEFENSE AND SPACE
PRnewswire | May 10, 2023
SmartSky Networks, the leading provider of inflight air-to-ground (ATG) connectivity for business aviation, today announced that it has been granted Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) #ST04610CH from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for installation of its Flagship system on a Dassault Falcon 2000EX business jet. The work was done by hardware sales and installation partner West Star Aviation at their Grand Junction facility. Liberty Partners provided engineering support, commencing the project on Feb. 3. The aircraft arrived for service at West Star in March, with the first-of-type installation and unrelated planned maintenance completed in just over a month, followed by a return-to-service in mid-April. The FAA supplemental type certificate was granted on April 28, representing less than three months from start to finish for the entire project.
"SmartSky was a great company to work with on this STC effort. The coordination between West Star, SmartSky and Liberty partners was excellent, and we are pleased to be part of enabling all Falcon 2000 series aircraft models to upgrade to SmartSky's groundbreaking new technology. Its high bandwidth and low latency performance enables continuous data transfer to and from the aircraft powering inflight use of demanding applications like livestreaming, videoconferencing and even gaming. This is the kind of performance our customers demand from their connectivity, and we look forward to installing more of the SmartSky systems," said Aaron Berg, Avionics Technical Sales Manager for West Star Aviation.
SmartSky's industry leading two-way data flow was on full display upon the jet's return to service flight from Colorado to the Bahamas, where nearly 7 GB of data was used in just over three hours, with more than 3 GB of data downloaded onto the aircraft and nearly 4 GB of data uploaded off the aircraft. SmartSky is the only aviation network that offers a symmetrical, two-way data link, and in the case of this flight, a remarkable 55% of the data used was sent off the plane.
The Falcon 2000 series, with nearly 450 aircraft in service, joins a growing list of aircraft types that have already been granted STCs for SmartSky's patented ATG connectivity service, making its high-performance network available to more aircraft that need secure, uninterrupted connectivity.
"West Star Aviation is a fantastic partner. Their ability to provide a flawless installation, while minimizing downtime, enabled an extremely quick issuance of the STC from the FAA. We know Falcon 2000 owners, operators, pilots, and passengers are going to love having this level of connectivity on their aircraft. With this first install under their belt, we look forward to more and faster installations with West Star in the future," said Chris Buff, MRO Account Management for SmartSky Networks.
Along with this STC for a Dassault-produced aircraft, SmartSky has already been awarded STCs for more than a dozen models from major manufacturers such as Textron Aviation, Gulfstream Aerospace, Bombardier, Embraer, and Dassault, with several more in progress and being scheduled.
About West Star Aviation
As an industry leading MRO provider, West Star is proud to have been voted the #1 Preferred MRO for ninth time from 2014-2021 and 2023 in Professional Pilot Magazine's annual PRASE Survey. West Star Aviation specializes in the repair and maintenance of airframes, engines and APUs, avionics installations and repair, major modifications, interior refurbishment, exterior paint, accessory services, and parts.In addition to its primary facilities in East Alton, IL; Grand Junction, CO; Chattanooga, TN; and Perryville, MO, West Star Aviation also maintains satellite facilities at Chicago Executive Airport in Chicago, IL; Centennial Airport in Denver, CO; Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport in Houston, TX; and Minneapolis/St.Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, MN. The company also provides complete FBO services for transient aircraft at its East Alton and Grand Junction facilities, as well as AOG/MRT services worldwide. West Star Aviation is an industry leader in technical experience and expertise while providing world-class customer services in all the organization's divisions.
SmartSky Networks was founded to transform aviation through disruptive communications technologies, services, and tools. The network takes advantage of patented spectrum reuse, advanced beamforming technologies, and 60 MHz of spectrum for significantly enhanced connectivity. SmartSky Networks uniquely enables an "office in the sky" experience with unmatched capacity for data transmissions both to and from the aircraft. This real-time, very low latency, bidirectional data link makes SmartSky Networks the best in-flight user experience, and a key enabler for new and enhanced applications and services.