Electric VTOL Aircraft Design: Theory and Practice Online


  • In this new joint course from AIAA and the Vertical Flight Society, the latest and greatest in eVTOL technology is presented.
  • All students will receive an AIAA Certificate of Completion at the end of the course

Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft are propelled by distributed electric power and are capable of carrying people or cargo. There has been a dramatic increase in interest in these aircraft over the past several years, driven by advances in electric propulsion, digital manufacturing, high-fidelity simulations, and drone technologies (mobile computing and deep learning). However, man-rated aircraft are more complex than drones, and require more than a clever combination of scaled-up components from the consumer electronics and automobiles industries. Maturation of eVTOL into a safe, sound, and sensible aircraft require a clear understanding of rotary-wing fundamentals, principles of enabling technologies and timely resolution of its major barriers. The objective of this course is to introduce these fundamentals, technologies and barriers.

This multi-presenter course — featuring pioneering experts from industry and academia — will provide an overview of the unique challenges and opportunities of this new class of vehicles. Both electric and hybrid-electric passenger carrying vertical flight aircraft will be covered for a variety of missions ranging from personal/private use to urban air taxis to regional electric VTOL bizjets.

Also included is in-depth coverage of industry-standard battery systems development (BAE Systems), advanced high-power hybrid-electric hardware (LaunchPoint), PEM fuel cells and hydrogen propulsion. In addition, the fundamentals of vertical lift and rotor aeromechanics from design to state-of-the-art in acoustics.

At the conclusion of this short course, students will have a basic understanding of:
  • The major constraints in designing an eVTOL aircraft, batteries and motors
  • Leading battery chemistries, packaging, thermal management, charge/discharge, etc.
  • Leading electric motor design types and metrics
  • Acoustics fundamentals
  • Sizing an eVTOL aircraft, batteries and motors for different missions and requirements
  • Theory and available computational tools
  • The pros and cons of different eVTOL aircraft configurations
  • Cost estimating of eVTOL aircraft

Aerospace engineers interested in electric power. Electrical/mechanical engineers interested in VTOL aircraft. The content will be presented in a simplified and practical manner to allow innovators, entrepreneurs, and non-VTOL experts to be able to make useful calculations and build their own design / simulation tools. The content will be presented in a simplified and practical manner aimed to engage a wide audience of mixed aerospace and non-aerospace background. A simplified multi-rotor VTOL aircraft will be designed and analyzed in class, progressively, as an illustrative example. In the final module, historical eVTOL design case studies will be reviewed by one of the earliest pioneers, and comparisons of the pros and cons of various eVTOL configurations.

Course Information:

Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Length: 3 days
AIAA CEU's available: Yes

This course is also available on-demand.
Each module will span two 2-hour sessions and include exercises.

Fundamentals: Rotors, Aircraft, and Integrated Electric Power. Anubhav Datta, Associate Professor, Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, University of Maryland

  • Introduction
    • Why eVTOL? Why now? A brief history
    • State-of-the-art in aircraft, battery, and motor
    • Single vs. distributed propulsion
    • Sizing an example eVTOL
    • The connection to infrastructure
  • Rotor aeromechanics
  • VTOL aircraft
    • Basic aerodynamics and performance
    • Rotors vs. propellers vs. prop-rotors
    • Coaxial and shrouded rotors
    • Blade structural dynamics and loads
    • eVTOL controls and trim
    • Example Quadrotor and Tiltrotor
  • Electric power
    • Power architecture
    • Brushless permanent magnet motors
    • Engine-generator hybrid
    • Lithium ion and Sulfur batteries
    • PEM fuel cells and hydrogen storage

Sizing Advanced Battery Systems for eVTOL Application. Joshua Stewart, Principal Power Systems Engineer, BAE Systems

  • Describe battery operations and management
  • Fundamentals of safe management and control
  • Detail elements of battery packaging
  • Discuss battery modeling
  • Relate electrical and thermal elements to basic first principles
  • Detail how systems are sized
  • Assess battery performance (example)
    • Power
    • Energy
    • Size
    • Weight
    • Life
    • Cost
  • Review development standards and testing

Brushless Permanent Magnet Machines and motor drives for Aircraft. Michael Ricci, LaunchPoint Electric Propulsion Solutions

  • PM motor types and geometries (radial and axial flux)
  • Motor performance metrics: size, weight, efficiency, torque, speed
  • Characteristics and performance
  • Designing a PM motor: sizing, weights and efficiencies
  • Gearboxes
  • Operating modes: motor vs generator
  • Fundamental operation principles and sizing of motor drives
  • Introduction to EMI concerns and mitigation
  • Electric tail rotor example

eVTOL and UAM noise. James Baeder, Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor, Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, University of Maryland

  • Definitions
  • Fundamentals of rotor acoustics
  • Types of noise: broadband, rotational, and impulsive noise
  • Ffowcs Williams and Hawkings Model
  • Method to calculate noise
  • Lifting-line versus CFD inputs
  • Single versus multiple rotors
  • Hover and forward flight
  • Active control of noise
  • Fundamental limits
  • How quiet is quiet enough?
eVTOL Design and Analysis: Prof. James Wang, Director of the eVTOL Research and Innovation Centre, Nanyang Technical University, Singapore

  • Different configurations for VTOL
  • Rotor designs and control methods
  • How to quickly estimate performance
  • Benchmark comparison of different eVTOL aircraft
  • Design recommendations
  • Cost estimation
  • Vertiport operations
  • Certification

Anubhav Datta

Anubhav Datta
 is a member of the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center (AGRC) and an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland at College Park. He holds a M.S. and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Maryland. He re-joined AGRC as faculty in 2016 after nine years at the U. S. Army Aviation Development Directorate (ADD) at NASA Ames Research Center. At Maryland, Datta and his students are focused on future vertical lift barriers through Mach-scale wind-tunnel tests and HPC-based high-fidelity simulations. The research conducted by Datta and his colleagues have led to new fields in VTOL such as Mars Helicopter (2000), CFD/CA (2004), and eVTOL (2012). Over the years his work has been recognized by the VFS Grover E. Bell and Alfred Gessow Awards, NASA Technical Excellence in Publications Award, and U.S. Army and NASA Group Achievement Awards. Datta is the founder and inaugural chair of the VFS eVTOL Technical Committee, Chair of the AIAA Structural Dynamics Sub-committee on Conferences, and Associate Editor of the Journal of the AHS.

Joshua Stewart

Joshua Stewart is a Principal Power Systems Engineer at BAE Systems and a member of the VFS. He has been working in the aerospace industry for over 10 years. Over the last 5 years, Josh has been a technical leader in the development of high-power, high-voltage battery systems for aircraft propulsion at BAE Systems. Josh is involved with the analysis and development of electric and hybrid electric aircraft propulsion systems, including Li-Ion battery storage, high-fidelity battery management systems, high voltage power distribution, motor drives and cables. He has played a critical role in the development of aircraft propulsion solutions for CTOL and eVTOL aircraft. With a strong background in flight-critical avionics and energy storage for ground transit, Josh has been able to apply a broad systems approach to the design of battery systems, including design for thermal runaway propagation and containment. He holds a B.S. degree from Binghamton University and a M.S. degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Mechanical Engineering.

Michael Ricci

Michael Ricci 
is the Vice President of Engineering, LaunchPoint Technologies, and the driving force behind LaunchPoint Technologies “Propulsion By Wire” electric aircraft propulsion effort and spent the last 6 years as PI on a number of projects to develop electric aircraft propulsion technologies. These projects have included the development of highly efficient and powerful dual halbach array motors, high specific power wide bandgap semiconductor motor drives, and hybrid-electric gen-sets and bus power management systems. Applications have included HALE vehicles, helicopter electric tail rotors, multi-rotors, and eVTOL vehicles. During Mike’s 17 year tenure at LaunchPoint Technologies he has worked on flywheel energy storage, implantable heart assist pumps, medical oxygen concentrators, engine valve actuators, and a magnetically levitated freight transportation system. Prior to joining LaunchPoint, Mr. Ricci worked as a mechanical engineer with Spectra F/X, a theme park engineering company, where he served as Project Engineer on several very large custom systems with high cycle rates, intimate man-machine interfaces, and high human-safety concerns.

James Baeder

James Baeder
 is a member of the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center as a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland at College Park. He is currently the Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor at the National Institute for Aerospace. He holds a M.S. and Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University. He joined the AGRC in 1993 after nine years at AFDD. His research interests are in developing and applying Computational Fluid Dynamic methods to better understand rotor aerodynamics, acoustics and dynamics. He is a pioneer in the development of high-fidelity CFD and aeroacoustic methods and tools for rotorcraft. Currently he is focused on the development of improved CFD algorithms on GPGPU technology, to: capture the details of laminar/turbulent transition; dynamic stall; as well as tip vortex formation, convection and interaction with other surfaces including fuselages, towers or the ground and including adjoint capabilities. Dr. Baeder's research has been funded by Excelon, NASA Ames and Langley, the Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, the Army Research Office, the National Rotorcraft Technology Center, NAVAIR and DARPA, with support from the various helicopter companies. Dr. Baeder is a Technical Fellow of the Vertical Flight Society, member of the Acoustics Technical Committee (1996-present), member of the Aerodynamics and Propulsion Area Committee, and Chairs the Innovation and Commercialization Committee of the Business Network for Offshore Wind as well as the National Offshore Wind Innovation Center.

James Wang

Dr. James Wang 
has over 30 years of experience in aerospace and high-tech industries. He is an internationally renowned expert in eVTOL aircraft and advanced air mobility. In 2013, WIRED Magazine named Dr. Wang “The Steve Jobs of Rotorcraft” for his ability to think “outside the box” and pushing the transportation technology boundaries for inventing and designing the AgustaWestland Project Zero, the world’s first all-electric VTOL technology demonstrator aircraft. Dr. Wang has held many executive leadership positions, including as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Vice President of R&D at Leonardo Helicopters; led Strategic Sales and worked on numerous helicopter designs at Sikorsky Aircraft. He is the founder of Vtolwerke LLC which provides consulting services in advanced air mobility, eVTOL aircraft designing and problem solving, product development strategizing, and due diligence studies. Dr. Wang is currently a full professor teaching aircraft and eVTOL design.

Dr. Wang received his Bachelor’s degrees in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering and in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from M.I.T., and a Master’s and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland. After completing his PhD, Dr. Wang started his career at Sikorsky Aircraft, where he was known as one of the most energetic and prolific engineers and managers; he contributed greatly to the Comanche, Black Hawk, Naval Hawk, S-92 and the Variable Diameter Tiltrotor programs.


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