Vertical Aerospace makes use of PLM software on its next generation eVTOL aircraft in the drive to take personal transport to the skies
UK aviation industry innovation specialist, Vertical Aerospace, is using the cloud based 3DExperience product lifecycle management (PLM) platform from Dassault Systèmes to develop its third all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, The Seraph. This latest version of the aircraft takes Vertical Aerospace another step closer to achieve its aim of revolutionising how people fly by making air transport personal, on demand and carbon free.
Vertical Aerospace is using Dassault’s “Reinvent the Sky” industry specific PLM module based on the well established 3DExperience platform, which is widely used by aerospace companies. It is used for managing the complex development of the eVTOL aircraft prototype by a rapidly growing team of 100 engineers and technical experts.
With recent requirements to work from home and an underlying trend towards remote working, the use of the cloud version of the software enables engineers to collaborate with designers, test professionals and manufacturing personnel in a unified way across the enterprise in one digital environment to meet needs ranging from requirements through to end design and quality. All this without having to install, maintain and manage hardware or server software on the premises.
Owen Thompson Cheel, Flight Systems Lead at Vertical Aerospace says that the company was fortunate to have moved onto the cloud based 3DExperience platform before remote working became a requirement. This put the company in an excellent position for continuing its operations whilst working in a different regime.
“The team members have all they need to work from home and by using the platform on the cloud, we have been able to continue working with virtually no difference in performance. It’s an excellent case for working in such a way and the 3DExperience platform has allowed us to remain agile and secure without loss of capability, effectively maintaining business continuity.”
Rather than a single chunk of software, 3DExperience is a “platform” on which different functions can be carried out using multiple modules, such as Computer Aided Design, Simulation, Lifecycle Management, Manufacturing etc. By being on a single platform, each of these modules uses the same data structure and can communicate seamlessly with each other. This provides users of the system with specific insights and allows engineers to be creative in their exploration of co-relationships between different events, design ideas etc.
A key example that is frequently used on such platforms is the analysis of real life test data and a comparison with simulation results in order to refine simulation. Similarly, the effects of design parameter changes can be quickly correlated to test results.
Dassault Systèmes supplies many variants of the platform based on modular and industry requirements and it can either be installed as a server based system on the customer premises or it can be deployed in the cloud.
According to David Ziegler, Vice President, Aerospace & Defence Industry, Dassault Systèmes, companies such as Vertical Aerospace are using the cloud version of the 3DExperience platform to advance their vision for sustainable mobility and invent new approaches to aviation.
“As businesses today must completely rethink the way they work, the cloud version of 3DExperience offers a large portfolio of applications for product design and engineering from anywhere, with a high level of performance and secure, efficient access to data,” he says.
After three years of intense development activity at Vertical Aerospace, The Seraph was first seen publicly in flight last year and is now undergoing the next phase of development and testing to make it consumer ready.
The fully electric aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability can carry up to three passengers or 250kg at speeds of up to 80kph (50mph).
The complexity of the third generation eVTOL required advanced functionality for electrical systems, change management, regulations and compliance, as well as greater collaboration among teams.
The maiden flight at Llanbedr Airfield in Wales last August follows the successful flight of the first full-scale prototype just over a year earlier. This was the UK’s first eVTOL aircraft to be granted flight permission by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Vertical Aerospace is now working closely with global aviation regulators, including EASA, to achieve certification for commercial flight.
Founded in 2016 by entrepreneur Stephen Fitzpatrick, the team has grown to more than 70 world-class engineers and technical experts, recruited from Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and Formula 1. By combining aerospace engineering excellence with new technologies from Formula 1, Vertical Aerospace hopes to help decarbonise the trillion dollar commercial aviation industry and provide a new mode of city-to-city passenger transport.
The Seraph was built to test new technologies and systems for integration into personal passenger aircraft. The Seraph features a unique passive cooling system and a customisable design, meaning the aircraft can be made larger or smaller, fitted with wheels or floats to facilitate water landings. With the Seraph, Vertical Aerospace’s team have developed concepts from their first aircraft and built in capabilities which will be critical for eVTOL aircraft seeking certification from aviation authorities.
Speaking at the maiden flight of The Seraph last year, Fitzpatrick underscored the importance of the event as a major milestone on the path towards carbon free flight.
“Air travel is one of the worst contributors to climate change and among the slowest sectors to decarbonise. Our mission at Vertical Aerospace is to make personal, on demand and carbon free flight a reality,” he said.
The successful test flight coincided with the company’s announcement that it had acquired MGI, an F1 engineering consultancy led by British motorsport veteran Mike Gascoyne. Gascoyne and his team of 20 specialists now form Vertical Advanced Engineering, bringing the total Vertical team to more than 70.
The MGI team will apply the latest technologies and agile processes from F1 to the development of eVTOL aircraft, including for example, best practice in building fast, light-weight composite structures. The acquisition has allowed Vertical Aerospace to accelerate the development of its eVTOL technology, bringing superior certified aircraft to market more quickly.
Mike Gascoyne, CTO of Vertical Advanced Engineering, said: “We have long believed that the technologu and approaches from Formula 1 could be applied to a range of engineering challenges. Vertical Aerospace’s vision provides a fantastic outlet for our experience and a unique opportunity to shape the future of flight.”
Working closely with global aviation regulators, including EASA, Vertical Aerospace will begin with piloted air taxi services on city-to-city routes. Over time, as the technology and regulatory framework develops, it will expand the number of chartered routes served, introduce elements of autonomy, and ultimately, make completely on-demand air taxis a reality. The company has already begun the certification process for its next model, a passenger aircraft.