Hybrid electric aircraft to become an option on air taxi service

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Hybrid-electric aircraft developer VoltAero’s forthcoming Cassio aircraft is to be one of the options available to users of an app-based on demand air taxi network being developed in the USA called KinectAir.

French firm VoltAero, which is headed up by former Airbus- chief technology officer Jean Botti, is developing the Cassio aircraft, which will fly at 200 knot-cruise speeds (360km/h) out to ranges of 800 miles (1,300km). The Cassio will be available in three versions with four to 10 seats and will be able to take off and land on runways of less than 1,800ft (550m) at local and regional airports.

The Cassio is using the company’s proprietary hybrid-electric power module and will be built in southwest France. First deliveries of the aircraft are scheduled to begin in late 2022.

Startup KinectAir launched earlier this year and is developing a short-haul regional air taxi service that uses a fleet of turboprop aircraft such as PC-12s, Cirrus SR22s and now the Cassio. The service is up and running with KinectAir operating as a charter broker in Vancouver, Washington, while it applies for Part 135 charter operator status and develops its Uber-like smartphone app and software backbone.

The partnership  between the two companies foresees Cassio aircraft integrated with KinectAir’s short-haul infrastructure, applying artificial intelligence to balance passenger demand with air transport availability. KinectAir’s software platform will interface directly with Cassio’s “intelligent cockpit”.

Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and chief technology officer said, “The KinectAir collaboration opens exciting opportunities, combining the full benefit of our Cassio aircraft’s low-noise, environmentally-friendly flights with an app that offers an accessible, affordable, sustainable and safe way to travel regionally by air.”

Botti added that ensuring regional air service is more important today than ever, especially when economically-challenged airlines around the world are abandoning shorter routes – threatening air links that serve as vital lifelines to thousands of communities.

KinectAir

Image: KinectAir

KinectAir’s regional air mobility smartphone app will allow users to order a flight directly from their nearest airfield. Using its fleet of leased and fractionally-owned aircraft, KinectAir’s software will balance supply and demand for air travel in a region.

“With Cassio aircraft in our fleet, it completes the KinectAir vision for democratizing personal air mobility. Being mindful and intentional about the need for connectivity, and the ability to fly sustainably, is in our company DNA,” said CEO of KinectAir Jonathan Evans. “We will be able to offer a clean, quiet, and intelligent regional air service to move people to where they need to be.

“Partnering with VoltAero during Cassio’s development also allows our software platform’s functionality to be integrated directly into the aircraft’s intelligent cockpit, which will enable a two-way interface for the rapid exchange of intelligence between the network and the aircraft as a node.”

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of 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 eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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