Silent Air Taxi - Urban Air Mobility

Silent Air Taxi – Urban Air Mobility made in Germany

Jennifer Weitbrecht
14.06.2019
8 pictures
8 minutes

It is peaceful here at the Aachen-Merzbrück Airfield – and quiet, just like the “unidentified flying object” which was revealed at a press event in the middle of the countryside on 11th June. We at WingMag checked out the unveiling of the futuristic light aircraft model for you. Germany is travelling towards the future, using modern and sustainable mobility strategies …

Introducing the Silent Air Taxi

The introductory words spoken by Armin Laschet, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, revealed a lot about the hopes which have already been placed in the Silent Air Taxi project:

Environmentally friendly and affordable air taxis can make a significant contribution to mobility in areas of high population density. The Silent Air Taxi, a quiet and low-emission hybrid light aircraft, is the latest innovation in the area of alternative and climate-friendly mobility solutions, made in North Rhine-Westphalia. It never fails to amaze me how parties from the fields of science and economics work hand-in-hand here at the Aachen research facility to turn futuristic visions into concrete technologies for sustainable mobility strategies which are suitable for daily use. This is how scientific excellence is translated into industrial production.

Armin Laschet, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia

The Aachen-Merzbrück Research Airfield, Aachen itself, the research partners and the Silent Air Taxi were introduced in multiple panel discussions. Then the drum roll … The unveiling of the Silent Air Taxi, currently only at a scale of 1:5. But hopefully soon a full-sized reality.

Futuristic light aircraft for regional air traffic mobility

Congested streets, noisy engines, smelly exhausts and regular particulate alarms – this is how it is in lots of urban areas, including those in Germany. Not exactly what we want for the future. Alongside easing the traffic situation and relieving the main modes of transport, noise reduction and reducing emissions are issues which we can no longer overlook. The Silent Air Taxi addresses all of these topics.

Except the Silent Air Taxi’s advantages also go even further. Individual travel times can be significantly reduced and daily routines can be more flexibly organised. A taxi service would represent a turning point for business travellers in particular. Journeys which used to take an entire day by bus and train could be completed in much shorter times. This means that fewer productive hours “fall by the wayside” …

According to Professor Peter Jeschke, professor at RWTH Aachen University and one of the CEOs of e.SAT GmbH, more than 80 percent of the population live fewer than 25 kilometres away from small airports and airfields. Their proximity to international airports, however, is considerably lower. This provides a market for offering flights between small airports. The Silent Air Taxi aims to cover this demand.

Our understanding of innovative air mobility is consistently geared towards customer requirements such as shorter travel times, punctuality and flexibility regarding individual requirements.

e.SAT GmbH CEOs, Prof. Peter Jeschke and Prof. Frank Janser

What can the innovative air taxi do? – The basic information

The amount of work and time which has gone into the small model aircraft is almost unimaginable. Four years of preparation, countless patent applications, multiple strategic partnerships and the founding of e.SAT GmbH. Here is some basic information about the Silent Air Taxi:

The Silent Air Taxi’s innovative technology

Imagine the unbelievable noise level if normal helicopters were to undertake the air taxi’s job! At least a few of those living near airfields would surely soon lose their minds due to this additional strain, which would reignite the already heated debate on aircraft noise.

Attention would, therefore, be paid to creating as low a noise pollution level as possible when constructing the Silent Air Taxi (as the name reveals). Very fortunate when you think about the fact that thousands of these mini aircraft could be moving around in our airspace in as few as five to ten years.

The unique electric hybrid engine and the boxwing design, which provides optimum fluid mechanics, are amongst the Silent Air Taxi’s most important technological features.

Electric hybrid engine:

The Silent Air Taxi has an electric engine at its disposal, alongside a normal turbine. It is this which makes the particularly quiet operating volume possible. e.SAT Powertrain GmbH, a subsidiary of e.SAT GmbH, is an electric hybrid engine manufacturer. 

Boxwing concept for optimised fluid mechanics:

The special boxwing wing shape is one of the factors, alongside the innovative engine, which makes quiet flight possible. The newly developed air taxi is designed similarly to a kind of biplane which works using a wingspan of only ten metres.

What is next for the Silent Air Taxi project?

The Silent Air Taxi model was presented after around four years of intensive work. But when will it actually take to the skies?

The time until the first flight will certainly just fly by for the partner network!

Who is behind the Silent Air Taxi?

A trendsetting and complex project like the Silent Air Taxi cannot be developed single-handedly. This quickly became clear to all those participating. So it is no surprise that various participants from science and industry are involved. RWTH Aachen University, RWTH Aachen Campus, FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences and the newly founded e.SAT GmbH, as the electric hybrid aircraft manufacturer, are the lead participants. More than 50 experts are involved in development and engineering in Aachen.

I am impressed at how successful, structured and quick the project partners’ development of this project has been to date. Various different skills are required to develop a new flying object of this type and orchestrating the individual institutes and people has been very successful.

Dr. Tim Grüttemeier, Aachen Städteregionsrat [Regional President]

The Fraunhofer IPT (Institute for Production Technology) is also involved in developing engine components as a non-university affiliated research facility. More information about the collaboration with the Fraunhofer IPT, as well as the future of electric hybrid engines and of fuel cells as energy converters in aircraft, will soon be available in an interview with Dr. Ing. Christoph Baum, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT. 

The industrial partners

Alongside academics, several established large companies from the German aviation industry are involved. This includes MTU Aero Engines AG:

For MTU Aero Engines, the Silent Air Taxi is a bold and powerful concept for the future which has very high chances of becoming a reality. We are therefore participating in it, not only with regards to content as a technology partner, but also in e.SAT Powertrain GmbH.

Lars Wagner, Chief Operating Officer, MTU Aero Engines

What does the project mean for North Rhine-Westphalia?

The Silent Air Taxi project provides an opportunity to regions such as North Rhine-Westphalia, which is economically still strongly dependent on dying industries such as brown coal mining. Employment opportunities which have disappeared due to the energy transition could be created in innovative areas such as air traffic mobility. No wonder that the Silent Air Taxi is being sponsored by the Federal State.

Hendrik Wüst, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Transport Minister, also stressed the possibilities which it opens up for the Federal State:

Projects such as the Silent Air Taxi and expanding the Aachen-Merzbrück Airfield to turn it into a research airfield show that we North Rhine-Westphalians have what it takes to participate in developing innovative technologies. We are supporting the expansion here in Merzbrück so that research into aircraft with electric engines and possibilities for low-noise flight can move forward. In a densely populated and congested state like North Rhine-Westphalia, it is right to also think of airspace as being the third dimension in terms of mobility. We want the mobility strategies of the future to be researched and developed, and ideally also produced and implemented, in North Rhine-Westphalia. We are, therefore, also making a contribution to develop the Rhinish mining area and are able to give the region’s people a new outlook.

Hendrik Wüst, Transport Minister for North Rhine-Westphalia

The Aachen area is proud of the project

Aachen is once again showcasing its innovative power and the very successful research and development at both universities. Through the Silent Air Taxi, we can uniquely demonstrate which pioneering projects can be developed right through to production when everyone pulls together and pursues the same goal.

Marcel Philipp, Lord Mayor of Aachen

With the development of the Silent Air Taxi project at the Aachen-Merzbrück research airfield, a new star has risen on the horizon for structural development in the Aachen metropolitan area.

Helmut Etschenberg, Former Städteregionsrat [Regional President]

Aachen-Merzbrück Research Airfield

More than 12.7 million Euros are due to be invested in further developing the Aachen-Merzbrück Research Airfield.

Additional reports on the Silent Air Taxi

The SAT unveiling created a lot of media interest and additional coverage can be found on WDR and n-tv, amongst other places. Perhaps you will spot the black hoodie featuring the WingMag logo amongst the photographers in the video 😉

Sounds like expensive fun?

Surprisingly not! A flight in the Silent Air Taxi should cost around the same as a 1st class train ticket … That sounds worth it!

by Jennifer Weitbrecht

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