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Quebec-based eVTOL developer Limosa unveiled the LimoConnect V2, the newest version of its eVTOL aircraft, during the 17th annual Electric Aircraft Symposium (EAS) from July 22 to 23.
The company expects to receive type certification from Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) in 2028, and announced earlier this year an agreement with BAC Aerospace as its certification partner.
Vertical spoke to Limosa founder and CEO Hamid Hamidi to get an update on this project and his outlook on the Canadian eVTOL industry.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Alex Scerri: Hamid, can you give us a brief background on your path to starting Limosa and the vision for the company?
Hamid Hamidi: I have been involved in aerospace engineering for about 10 years in Montreal and I worked at some leading companies, including Bell Helicopter and Bombardier. For the past five years, I closely followed the trend for electrification in aviation, including governments following up on their commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement to achieve net-zero emissions from aviation by 2050. I felt that this was a good opportunity.
For the past two years, we have been studying the market offering and we saw that there was a gap from the passenger capacity standpoint. The largest cabin being designed now is for six passengers, and from our market research, we decided to go for a bigger cabin concept that can also accommodate a wider range of missions.
Our approach is to use a modular design so we can have multiple configurations with the same primary structure to ease the certification burden. We intend to use the same base structure and then use supplemental certification for the different possible use cases.
Alex Scerri: Will you be manufacturing an aircraft yourself or will you be a service provider to other airframers?
Hamid Hamidi: Our vision is to manufacture LimoConnect here in Quebec thanks to the great potential this province has to offer. We aim to bring this product to the market as in intermediate solution for airliners and service providers. You can say we are the SUV-size version of eVTOLs.
We are designing LimoConnect to have one pilot plus seven passengers, and we are even looking at one plus nine in high-pax configuration. We feel that for regional trips, there is a missing link because most of the current projects are focusing on urban air mobility. Our focus is more on the regional market, which we believe will be easier to certify than aircraft operating in congested urban settings.
Alex Scerri: What stage of the project are you in now?
Hamid Hamidi: We started almost two years and two months ago, and I want to emphasize that because for startups, every day is important. We have finished the preliminary design and we built a 1:10 scale model that was shown last September at Aero Montreal.
Based on the flight tests of that scale model, we saw some drawbacks in the configuration. We had four rotors on the empennage which was giving us structural issues. We also realized that the number of tilting mechanisms could have been a potent failure point in our design. Based on that, we applied some changes to the configuration. We have built a new 1:8 model that we will showcase at the AIRTAXI World Congress 2023 in San Francisco in October.
The final configuration is now frozen for our first experimental aircraft planned to fly in mid-2024. All the preliminary design and conceptual analysis are complete. Our supply chain for the main components of the aircraft is taking shape and we are ready to go. We announced a partnership with Airborne U.K. to manufacture the structure, and BAC Aerospace in Canada is our partner for certification. In fact, we are the first Canadian developer to start the certification process with TCCA.
There is still some discussion on the certification regulations that will be adopted here. Traditionally, TCCA follows the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] but for eVTOL aircraft, there are still many questions.
However, TCCA have already accepted our concept, and we are already in talks with them. We expect the G-1 certification basis plan by the end of 2024. Going through flight test, and building the conforming and production aircraft, we expect type certification by mid-2028.
In our case, a path like the special class method being proposed by the FAA would be better as we are mainly targeting the North American market.
Alex Scerri: In view of this, do you plan any parallel certification with other authorities?
Hamid Hamidi: We have not taken this road yet and there is already a long line of projects waiting to start their FAA process. Our advantage being Canadian is that we have allocated resources from TCCA. Of course, this is something we may revisit in the future, but our starting point is TCCA.
Alex Scerri: What are the benefits of using external certification experts such as BAC Aerospace?
Hamid Hamidi: Certification is tough and requires a lot of knowledge and experience. BAC Aerospace is experienced in certification and have delegates from TCCA. They have run different certification programs in Canada, especially for conventional aircraft. Some of them are the representative from TCCA for propulsion systems, including electric propulsion, so we are just benefiting from that rich background.
Some companies do vertical integration of their projects including certification and want to keep everything in-house. We have a different approach where we have partners supplying components and subsystems, so we have the same for certification, which we believe will accelerate our progress. Both methods have their own pros and cons, but in our case, to have a more agile program, horizontal integration is better.
Alex Scerri: Can you share some more specifications for LimoConnect?
Hamid Hamidi: We have changed the configuration of the propulsion system. Based on our aerodynamic studies, we saw we did not need eight motors in cruise so now we have four vectored thrust electrically powered rotors on the main wing and four two-bladed fixed rotors for the hover. We have a combination of vectored thrust plus hover propulsion system. Instead of the empennage, we now have a v-stab with two fixed rotors.
We also revealed a 200-mile per hour [320-kilometer per hour] cruise speed, a 150-mile [240 km] range and a one-hour endurance. As for the noise impact, we are also working on our propulsion system together with a partner that supplies the motor, and we have a target of 60 to 65 decibels at 500 feet [150 meters].
Alex Scerri: Speaking to many stakeholders in the eVTOL community as recently as the Paris Air Show, battery capacity still seems to be advancing slower than expected. Do the specifications you quote rely on a step change in battery technology or can it be done with what is available today?
Hamid Hamidi: The concept that we are working on is based on the available battery capacities that are out there. As soon as there is any improvement, we can increase our range or carrying capacity. The specifications we have announced are based on current battery energy densities of 250 watt-hours per kilogram. We are talking to some state-of-the-art battery manufacturers based in California that are well on the way to deliver a 450 Wh/kg battery.
There is also the possibility to use a hybrid propulsion system and we are having discussions in that direction as well. For sure, the first experimental aircraft is going to be fully electric, and we can still fly 150 mi [240 km] using current batteries.
Alex Scerri: What is your outlook on the Canadian market for eVTOL aircraft?
Hamid Hamidi: We are working with the government of Quebec because there are many locations in Quebec that are not easily accessible by ground transportation. There are some locations in northern Quebec where most supplies have to be flown in. This aircraft can be deployed in those areas because it has the advantage of low noise and zero emissions. Of course, the environmental conditions in this part of the country can be quite extreme from frigid winters to severe convective weather so that is something we must consider.
Toronto is another good market due to its congested ground network and the abundance of communities in that area. British Columbia is also another great candidate and there are many commutes between Vancouver and Victoria or even Nanaimo.
Through our market analysis, we just realized a shocking fact about some short-distance routes. Take Okanagan Valley for instance. If you want to go from Penticton to Kelowna, there is no direct flight between these two cities. You need to take a flight from Penticton to Calgary or Edmonton first and from there, take another flight back to Kelowna which sounds crazy. There are many examples like this across Canada. However, we are not limited to the Canadian market, and we also have partners looking at candidate routes in American, European and Asian cities as well.
Alex Scerri: As always, I am curious about the naming of companies and aircraft. What is the origin of the name Limosa?
Hamid Hamidi: Limosa is a bird from the godwit family. This bird is incredible because it can fly non-stop from New Zealand to East Japan for up to 6,800 mi (11,000 km). There have been many studies on its anatomy. The body of this bird was the very first inspiration for the fuselage of LimoConnect and we have not changed it since. We were trying to tweak the aerodynamic properties of the fuselage, but it turned out that it is already optimized so we didn’t need to touch it. It comes from nature, and nature has optimized it already through evolution.
Alex Scerri: Hamid, do you have any message to share with the eVTOL community?
Hamid Hamidi: We are all working toward a zero-emission aviation by 2050. I believe there is a will in society in general to reach this target even when you look at the market cap of some the publicly-traded eVTOL companies.
I don’t think it is a competition in the traditional sense of the word, but we are all trying to contribute to introduce and launch new aircraft that will provide services to areas that are currently not reached by mainstream aviation and will gradually replace others where the service already exists. From our part, we have some advantages such as the larger cabin capacity and modular design, as well as both VTOL and CTOL capability.
We are also lucky that the Government of Canada is very supportive of green technologies and electrification on the ground, as well as in the air, and we are honored to be playing our part in this new potentially society-changing industry.
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