Image of Lift Aircraft prototype provided by Lift
The following post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga.
As electric cars gradually fill the streets, electric planes might also soon start filling the skies. There are round-the-clock efforts to cause a paradigm shift in the aviation industry, and if all goes according to plan, your next flight could be propelled by one or more electric motors — not aviation fuel.
Aeronautics has come a long way since the Wright brothers — Orville and Wilbur — in 1903 pioneered the aviation industry when they achieved the first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight. Two years later, they flew their first fully practical airplane.
Since then, the industry has obviously undergone significant transformations and growth, becoming one of the most popular and safest means of transportation globally. The global airline industry transported about 2.2 billion passengers in 2021 alone — although that represented a 50% loss in air passenger traffic compared to 2019 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
While aircraft themselves have undergone tremendous technological upgrades over the years, the same cannot be said to an equal degree about the fuel that powers planes. For almost a century, aviation fuels — petroleum-based or petroleum and synthetic fuel blends — have been used to power aircraft.
Shift From Fossil to Electric?
But as the world aggressively shifts from fossil fuels to renewable energy, there have been calls for the aviation industry to follow the automotive sector, which has made arguably significant strides so far.
The global aircraft electrification market might present significant monetary potential. According to Research and Markets, the market is projected to grow from $3.4 billion in 2022 to $8.6 billion by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.2%.
The research outfit observed that the increasing need to reduce carbon emissions, aircraft noise, and control environmental pollution is expected to drive demand to switch to electric. However, the limited range and capacity of electric aircraft are curbing the overall growth of the market.
Currently, some companies — like Honeywell International Inc. HON, General Electric Co. GE subsidiary GE Aviation, Raytheon Technologies Corp RTX, Thales Group HO, Rolls-Royce Holding PLC (LON: RR) and Safran SA SAF — are working on crossing some of the hurdles confronting the industry in its quest to go electric.
eVTOL Aircraft Leading the Way
Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft present a unique opportunity for the aviation industry to adopt renewable energy easily. Advancements in electric propulsion — motors, batteries, and electronic controllers — and the growing need for urban air mobility — like air taxi — is propelling this technology.
Already, some startup companies have made headway in making eVTOL aircraft accessible to the consumer market. One such startup, Austin, Texas-based LIFT Aircraft, says it is advancing technologies in flying cars and eVTOL aircraft that use electric power to hover, take off and land vertically.
LIFT and similar startups are either partnering or rubbing shoulders with key players from aerospace and transportation like Boeing Co. BA, Airbus SE AIR, Embraer SA EMBR, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. 7267, Toyota Motor Corp. 7203, Hyundai Motor Co. (KRX: 005380), and NASA to turn flying cars and taxis from idea to reality today.
But to make fully electric aircraft a meaningful share of the market requires advancements in battery technology and highly efficient electric converters that can power aircraft for longer flights like fossils do currently. Also, the industry might need to address the chemical and fire hazards that batteries pose.
HEXA — A Drone Capable of Human Flight
LIFT is trying to cross these hurdles and is ambitiously charting 2 new paths for the aviation industry — a ‘flying car’ propelled by electric motors. The company has produced HEXA, an electric, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that anyone could fly.
LIFT states that advancements in technologies developed for small drones have made it possible to design a safe, simple, and inexpensive multi-rotor drone capable of human flight.
The company leverages distributed electric propulsion (DEP) technology, autonomous “fly-by-wire” flight control systems, and its patented design for HEXA, a personal drone that anyone can fly with only minimal training - no pilot’s license required. LIFT believes electric vertical flight is possible at ⅒ the cost of a helicopter with zero direct CO2 emissions.
The company embarked on this journey in November 2017 and just 7 months after putting designs on paper, it succeeded in flying a full-scale prototype. The company achieved this feat by 3D printing most of the parts and tooling required.
LIFT believes that the solution to exponentially growing urban traffic congestion is a personal, drone-like multirotor aircraft that can takeoff and land virtually anywhere. The company is in production with a Tier 1 Aerospace manufacturer and conducting safety testing. LIFT anticipates launching customer flights in 2022 on a 25-city US tour. You can see the story of HEXA here.
These developments might be good news for the emerging urban air mobility (UAM) market, which is predicted to be worth $104 billion by 2023 and $1 trillion by 2040.
LIFT’s current beachhead strategy is to first target markets that don’t require time-consuming aircraft certification or breakthroughs in battery technology for viability.
The company believes its technology is ready for takeoff and could be what investors are looking for.
The preceding post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga. Although the piece is not and should not be construed as editorial content, the sponsored content team works to ensure that any and all information contained within is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge and research. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.
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