Leonardo joins Vertical Aerospace eVTOL aircraft development program


Aerospace and defence company Leonardo is to partner with UK eVTOL aircraft developer Vertical Aerospace on the development and testing of the fuselage for its first aircraft, the VX4.

Vertical’s VX4 is being designed to have a range of more than 100 miles (160km), a top speed of 200mph (320km/h), a four-passenger capacity and to be all electric.

The joint development program agreed between the two companies covers the design, testing, manufacture and supply of the carbon composite fuselage up to the successful certification of the VX4. Engineers from Vertical and Leonardo will work together on optimizing the aircraft’s lightweight composite structures, modular design, systems installation, and on the structural testing of the fuselage.

The partnership agreement between the two companies covers the building of an initial six certification aircraft, and the potential supply of the fuselages for up to 2,000 VX4 electric aircraft per year, which would be built at a Leonardo plant in Italy.

Vertical claims to have the most most pre-orders of any eVTOL-aircraft developer, of 1,350 aircraft worth US$5.4 billion from customers including American Airlines, Avolon, Bristow and Iberojet. The company expects to begin the VX4’s test flight program later this year.

Both Leonardo and Vertical have had agreements in place with chemicals company Solvay for around a year. Leonardo has a joint research program with Solvay to develop thermoplastic materials and manufacturing technologies, while Vertical has an agreement in place to use Solvay’s composite materials

Vertical says the work with Solvay will help enable the high volume manufacture of the VX4.

Michael Cervenka, president of Vertical said, “I have been hugely impressed by Leonardo’s highly innovative and industry-leading technical and manufacturing capabilities and our partnership has got off to a flying start.

“I’m thrilled that Leonardo will be joining us in this journey. We have a market-leading pre-order book for our VX4, and this partnership will ensure that we can scale the programme to meet demand.”

Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s general manager, said: “Advanced air mobility is part of Leonardo’s mandate to innovate using our human-centred technology and industrialization expertise. We’re proud to collaborate with Vertical as part of our strategic vision in this brand new sector.”

Giancarlo Schisano, managing director of Leonardo’s Aerostructures Division said, “We are a partner to the world’s leading commercial aircraft manufacturers and specialise in the production and assembly of major structural composite and metallic components for commercial aircraft.

“We strive to bring new technologies, materials and processes into our established practices in our production sites. This will be the case at our Grottaglie plant in Southern Italy, where we will focus our VX4 activities; the plant is one of the most advanced facilities in Europe to produce composite aerostructures.”

Vertical, which was founded in 2016 and is based in Bristol UK is working with several aerospace suppliers on the VX4, including Rolls-Royce for the propulsion system and Honeywell for the flight deck and avionics.

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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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