LYTE Aviation revealed its 40-seat hybrid eVTOL SkyBus and SkyTruck program Thursday. Founder and CEO Freshta Farzam shared her vision for the eVTOL recently, presenting it in London at Helicopter Investor 2023.
The LA-44 SkyBus and SkyTruck cargo variant are designed around a 4.5-ton payload and is the accumulation of three years of research and development. This new vertical take-off and landing vehicle is designed to be five times more fuel efficient than current helicopters.
The SkyBus variant will offer a range of roughly 621 miles with a max speed of about 186 mph. It is a hybrid electric tandem tilt-wing design and mainly uses technology available today. A full-scale prototype is planned for within the next two years. The design will feature two separate propulsion systems, one electric powered by fuel cells and one turbine powered by jet fuel or SAF.
"The use of turbine engines will likely remain unavoidable for the foreseeable future, so in order to achieve useful and business-sensible ranges as well as quicker time to market, we have opted for a hybrid, partly electric VTOL," Farzam said.
"My personal inspiration with this operating concept stems from the Rotodyne aircraft of the 1950s," she said. "Imagine 70 years later after accomplishing those 350 successful test flights, what can be achieved thanks to the advances in technology that we have seen, and continue to see."
The LA-44 is powered by four conventional turbine engines running on SAF, complemented by four electric motors at the wingtips for control and stability, powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
"Conventional, highly reliable turboprops are the best option for our aircraft program for the time being, with the aim to operate and refuel practically anywhere with the current infrastructure," she said. "With the constant evolution and expected investment in global infrastructure, including vertiports, energy sources (SAF andamp; green Hydrogen) and electric powerplants, the ambition would be to become fully hydrogen-electric in the future,"
"We are focusing on facilitating the easy movement of passenger and cargo air transportation in a fast, safe, cost-effective and sustainable way," Freshta said. "SkyTruck will be designed to deliver time-sensitive cargo faster from point to point, without reliance on runways, designed for the time-critical demands of the onshore and (especially) offshore industry. Furthermore, the LA-44 would be honed for operation in other rugged operational conditions and (in the absence of ground infrastructure) in remote areas. It will feature underslung load capability: a 4.5-ton payload and 17 tons of gross weight.
"The LA-44's unique design will enable us to tap mass transport capabilities, displacing air transport and land transport modalities such as buses, trains and trucks, " she said.
"LYTE Aviation's vision is to significantly enhance speed and frequency of passenger mass transit and cargo deliveries," she said. "The LA-44 represents the work of LYTE's world-class team, who collectively hold 200 years' aviation experience.
Inmarsat and Inflight Canada are supporting the project and share the same vision. Inmarsat is one of the largest recognized suppliers of satellite communication services globally. Its Senior Director of ITM, Anthony Spouncer, said the company was excited to team with LYTE.RELATED STORIES:United and Archer announce first eVTOL air taxi route in ChicagoSikorsky to advance MATRIX unmanned flight program with GE in eVTOL project
"Inmarsat is excited to team with LYTE Aviation and be a key partner in delivering a safety information service to and from the LA-44 platform, as part of a line-fit delivery program for its hybrid electric vehicle," Spouncer said. "Inmarsat has been a trusted provider of critical safety communications for aviation for over 30 years. Its systems are assured, proven and available line-fit with major OEMs globally."
Inflight Canada is a leading aerospace design organization and inflight specialist, supporting projects from conception, engineering and integration through to maintenance and manufacturing. Inflight is also a partner for LYTE's project and will work on the "reversible" cargo modification.
"IFC is very excited and keenly interested in participating with the development of a SkyTruck version of the LA-44," GM of Inflight Canada George Smallhorn said. "With a range of 1000km and the flexibility of vertical operations, the sheer usefulness of this aircraft is well beyond the current technology in use today."
LYTE will announce other partnerships later in the year.