Aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus has unveiled the prototype for its new electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft ahead of the vehicle’s maiden flight, scheduled for later in 2024. 

The CityAirbus NextGen model has been developed by the company as its entry into the growing market, looking to capitalise on urban air mobility (UAM) ambitions from cities and airlines around the world. 

Balkiz Sarihan, head of UAM for Airbus, said: “Rolling out CityAirbus NextGen for the very first time is an important and very real step that we are taking towards advanced air mobility and our future product and market. 

“Thank you to our community, team and partners all over the world for helping us make this a reality.” 

The unveiling of the aircraft came during the official opening of the company’s new CityAirbus test centre in Donauwörth, Germany, which will be used for the prototype testing of the new aircraft. 

The vehicle will have an 80km operational range and is expected to have a cruise speed of 120km/h, according to Airbus it has also been developed “with quiet flights in mind” to make it suitable for use in cities.

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One of many eVTOL aircraft currently in development, the CityAirbus looks similar to some of its competitors with eight rotors and a wide wingspan, but the manufacturer will be hoping its experience and reputation in the aircraft manufacturing industry will boost its appeal. 

Additionally, the NextGen model builds on the experience Airbus gained from its two eVTOL demonstrator models, the four-person CityAirbus and the one-seater Vahana, which were retired in 2021 and 2019 respectively. 

The approach of flight testing for Airbus’ new prototype means the company will only be shortly behind manufacturers such as Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation, which are already in the middle of testing programmes for their eVTOL aircraft.

Airbus will also be on a similar level to the Embraer-backed Eve Air Mobility which completed its prototype vehicle in May 2023.

The eVTOL industry has been seen by many as the greener future of intra-city transport and a partial solution to the road congestion problems seen in many of the world’s major cities, however, the technology has yet to be seen at a fully operating commercial level.