Pantuo Aviation, founded in 2019, is a Chinese eVTOL manufacturer based in Shanghai. On June 6, 2022, Pantuo Aviation released a video showing the first flight of its 1/2 scale ducted fan eVTOL, PANTALA Concept H.
Pantuo wants to build a fast, safe and comfortable aircraft that can fly between cities, connect transportation hubs and operate crewed emergency rescue missions. Its first eVTOL, the PANTALA Concept H, has a maximum speed of over 300km/h, and a maximum range of 250km. “This aircraft helps those who value their travel time to live in a more efficient way, whether it’s for business travel, leisure travel or other scenarios.” says Lu.
“Few ducted fan configurations are seen in eVTOL designs worldwide, not to mention tilt-wing ducted fan configuration, which has a higher challenge of technical feasibility. Both market and technology perspectives lead us to this configuration.” says Lu.
“From a market perspective, aircraft with ducted propellers can provide passengers with a greater sense of safety, especially in China where the general aviation market is not well-developed. The requirement for noise reduction in advanced air mobility is much higher than in other operational environments. Travel scenarios are diversified inside cities, whilst the advantages of flying vehicles in getting rid of ground traffic congestion and saving travel time are especially prominent in mid-long distance trips.” says Lu.
From a technical perspective, ducts not only provide protection that avoid fan blade harm in emergency situations; at the same time, ducts can effectively reduce the noise of the aircraft. Ducts have a better static performance than open propellers and work better in cruise. Considering safety, noise reduction and efficiency, we chose the tilt-wing ducted fan configuration.
Battery, Motor and Flight Control System
Due to the size constraint of ducted fans, the power requirement of the battery system is higher compared to open propeller configurations, which prompts highly efficient thermal management system and propulsion system. To meet the 250 km flight range, Pantuo requires lithium batteries with a high discharge rate, with energy density 25% higher than current mainstream lithium batteries that are used in electric vehicles. As a certain number of cell suppliers can currently provide batteries of this level, Pantuo will balance the high performance from cutting-edge battery technologies such as solid-state batteries, ultra-high nickel cathode and silicon anode based Ni-Co-Mn (NCM) batteries with cell safety design. For the flight control system, extra control input channels and hence more control patterns to be optimized, imposes an interesting challenge that we are ready to tackle with.
Take-off and Landing
PANTALA Concept H was designed with short take-off and landing (STOL) and conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) capabilities at the very beginning. “In this way, the aircraft could save power during take-off and landing, which in turn increases the range of the aircraft. Since the infrastructure of civil aviation airports and general aviation airports are relatively well-developed, making full use of existing facilities will enhance eVTOL operation”
Pantuo believes that achieving high aircraft safety level is accomplished through enhancement of subsystem safety level as well as holistic aircraft system design. While applying safety analysis methods and processes inherited from conventional aircraft development, Pantuo will also seek interactive communication with certification authorities as new technologies and operation conditions will be implemented. Meanwhile, Pantuo will also ensure safety objectives are viable and even improvable for subsystem suppliers through an integrated cooperation model.
Exterior and Interior Cabin Design
The exterior of the PANTALA Concept has been designed in collaboration with studiokurbos, an international leading design studio headquartered in Germany. The premium character of the aircraft is evident at first glance of the exterior through the generous surfaces, few component separations and dynamic lines, providing people with a futuristic and elegant feeling.
“PANTALA Concept H provides passengers with a higher level of safety. The vehicle design fits in the public’s perception of future mobility. In the design of interior space, we tried to restore the layout and space of a passenger car, which is the most familiar and comfortable way of commuting for users. We will use a simplified cockpit concept and integrate flight controls into a central screen and a side stick to enable a safe, simple and fun flight.”
Although no eVTOL has obtained airworthiness certification, and neither the FAA, EASA, nor CAAC has issued clear standards about the certification of eVTOLs, Pantuo believes that it will be a combination of traditional Part 23 (Airworthiness Standards: Normal Category Airplanes), Part 27 (Airworthiness Standards: Normal Category Rotorcraft) and related “Special Conditions”. PANTALA Concept H full-size model will be kicked-off at the end of 2022 and it is expected to obtain certification and enter into service within five years.
“Based on Pantuo’s experience in commercial aviation projects, the PANTALA Concept H is on track to achieve CAAC airworthiness certification by the end of 2027, based on assumptions that the market environment is stable, resources are sufficient. To obtain certification, Pantuo, like all eVTOL companies, will further improve the aircraft design according to the regulatory requirements from CAAC, FAA and EASA.
Market Prospects and Commercial Operations
Pantuo believes that unlike the traditional helicopter charter, which serves only the high-end travel market, eVTOLs bring a more efficient and convenient way of travel to a broader range of people. “eVTOLs will replace some helicopters on existing missions and some mid to long distance ground transportations. With their low operating noise and operating costs, eVTOLs could realize advanced air mobility market, stimulate more diversified travel demands and create a blue ocean market.” says Lu.
PANTALA Concept H will enter commercial service after obtaining its Type Certificate (TC) in 2027. “We will actively cooperate with helicopter operators to carry out existing missions, using existing take-off and landing infrastructure and approved routes to enter the market. Trial operations will start on fixed routes and areas with low population density. With the establishment of the route network, ground infrastructure, laws and regulations, and the development of technology, eVTOLs would be used in more operation scenarios. The overall operational costs will continue to decline in forming a positive cycle of business growth.”
There are almost 50 cities around the world that are considering the feasibility of urban air passenger transport, still the infrastructure is not sufficient. As an eVTOL OEM, Pantuo not only looks at the needs of users, but the constraints brought by infrastructure are also the key factors when designing an eVTOL. “Conducting research on infrastructure is necessary in early stages of aircraft R&D. We will proactively share our understanding of UAM and will deeply involve ourselves in the definition of infrastructure.” says Lu.
For most people in China, eVTOL is a new term. With the IPO of overseas leading eVTOL companies, the capital markets began to show interest, which accelerates the development of the industry. Lu says: “In China, peoples’ understanding of eVTOL market, engineering, certification and operation is not thorough enough to objectively assess the challenges and life-cycle of the project. It is also difficult to find qualified talents and industrial partners in China.”
Unlike other eVTOL startups, Pantuo has always been a self-financing startup that maintains close ties and partnerships with major suppliers around the world. Pantuo is currently seeking the right investors, “We have just started our first round of funding, and we welcome institutions and investors of all kinds to come for a talk.”
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