Airbus to test potential eVTOL aircraft routes in Japan


Airbus is to partner with a Japanese helicopter operator to develop and test potential routes for its CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft to use in the Kansai region.

Airbus’ partnership with helicopter operator Hiratagakuen will first develop a simulation of several routes, concepts of operations and necessary equipment for safe eVTOL flights in the Kansai region of Japan, with a demonstration flight scheduled for later this year.

The routes will aim to demonstrate the suitability of the CityAirbus NextGen to be used for flights outside of urban areas for use cases ranging from air medical services to commercial air transport and ecotourism.

Airbus and Hiratagakuen are to use an H135 helicopter to test advanced navigation and communication technologies for safe operations of eVTOL aircraft, while simulating CityAirbus NextGen’s flight configuration.

Mitsuhiro Hirata, vice president of the aviation operation division of Hiratagakuen said, “We are very pleased to conduct a demonstration flight in the Osaka-Kansai region with Airbus for the future of mobility, using the latest H135 helicopter.

“We have been operating Airbus helicopters for many years and highly appreciate their high safety, performance, operational reliability and proven after-sales support. We are aware that a revolution in air transportation is now approaching in the Osaka area, and we expect CityAirbus NextGen to play a central role in this revolution.”

Balkiz Sarihan, Head of UAM (urban air mobility) strategy execution and partnerships at Airbus said, “We are honored to further our long standing collaboration with Hiratagakuen by working on this exciting journey towards zero emission flights. Their expertise in commercial air transport and air medical services operations makes them an ideal partner for defining the operational framework for advanced air mobility with CityAirbus NextGen in Japan.”

Hiratagakuen is a Kansai-based helicopter operator who specialises in Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS), transportation of personnel, flight training, and maintenance. The company’s current fleet includes 14 H135 and two H145 helicopters.

Airbus’ CityAirbus NextGen is an all- electric four-seater aircraft that will have an 80km (50 miles) range and a top cruise speed of 120 km/h (75mph). It is being developed to meet EASA special condition VTOL certification standards.

Development of the CityAirbus started in 2015 and a prototype was flown in 2019. Last September Airbus revealed an updated design of the eVTOL aircraft and added “NextGen” to its name. The company started building a flight test center dedicated to CityAirbus in July.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 20 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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