Where's My Hover-Car?

February 25, 2021
February 25, 2021
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There has been a lot of buzz around the VTOL industry in recent weeks with major announcements from several companies about IPOs, flight certification progress and large order contracts... Are “flying cars” finally getting off the ground?

Science fiction and futuristic cities have always been synonymous with flying cars, from the Jetsons all the way to Bladerunner. The technology is now catching up, and urban air mobility (UAM) is a huge emerging market with billions of dollars being invested in hundreds of different companies all vying to build the future of transport.

WISK's Cora eVTOL prototype

Some contenders are large traditional Aerospace OEMs, but many are agile and innovative startups, pushing the boundaries of aircraft design to develop a new wave of practical and environmentally friendly transport systems, personal craft, air taxis and even airborne motorsports.

The vehicle designs come in an amazing variety of shapes and sizes - from “hover bikes” and single seaters, to family vehicles and higher capacity "bus" alternatives. They also feature a wide range of propulsion methods from more traditional tiltrotor and ducted fan, to multicopter and multi-prop wings, to more exotic tech like the “cyclocopter” and the bladeless “ducted radial impeller”.

Lilium's prototype

But with many concepts and designs being very different to traditional aircraft, there is often little existing knowledge to build upon. A number of complications must be overcome, including:

  • Many of the designs, technologies, and flight methods are new and unproven.
  • Starting from scratch to develop novel control input methods, physical flight models and pilot support systems
  • Aircraft must be certified in an extremely safety-conscious and highly regulated industry

These challenges can delay development milestones and slow down progress getting a product to market, but with so many players in this new space, being first to market could make all the difference.

So how can you get the data you need, fast, to push forward with development?

Simulator-driven success

Simulators have a proven track record as a valuable tool in aviation design and training, with development and research going back decades.

Flight Simulators can significantly improve training benefits and efficiency, while avoiding training accidents and the risks. They also present other advantages such as extended training scope and special maneuvers training capability, 24 hour availability in all weather conditions, and progressive learning. Sims are also cost‑effective and environmentally friendly, with the operating cost estimated to be between 5-20% of the cost of an actual aircraft.

However, there are issues with employing simulators as well - most existing options are prohibitively expensive, require a large dedicated facility to operate, require full cockpit fit-outs which are expensive and complex while locking it to a single use-case, and can only offer limited performance and range of motion (if not just static).

A fixed helicopter simulator

This last point is possibly the most significant, as this prevents them from simulating the unique flight profiles and behavioral dynamics of VTOL vehicles. Motion has been shown to be especially important and valuable for the experience in helicopters and other dynamic “hover” vehicles.

The ability to accurately recreate the physical sensations to match the visuals unlocks a whole new level of effectiveness in simulators, as well as alleviating a number of issues:

  • Increased immersion and engagement in the training, better skill uptake
  • Improved development of control and handling skills, familiarity and “muscle memory”
  • Improved situational awareness and reduced spatial disorientation during dynamic maneuvers
  • Avoiding nausea / "simulator sickness" caused by mismatch between visuals and feeling

The recent advent of Virtual Reality (VR) technology and immersive simulators are challenging the traditional simulator concept, but there are very few products on the market that employ VR technology to its full potential.

Leveraging the completely simulated environment allows you to do away with much of the expensive and heavy hardware of traditional designs, reducing complication in commissioning and allowing them to be built smaller and cheaper, while offering new features and capabilities.

Eight360 NOVA virtual reality motion simulator platform

The perfect solution would be a practical simulator that can be employed across the entire lifecycle of product development, potentially repurposing the same units and assets at each stage.

  • Engineering and development - (reconfigurable) engineering sim for development purposes, defining aero and engine models, refining flight controls, and deriving equations of motion.
  • Test pilot Training, UX Testing for Passengers - familiarization with controls and vehicle behavior/systems, developing autonomous or aided control schemes to ensure passenger comfort and confidence.
  • Marketing and Sales - for demonstrations to the public and potential customers, appearances at trade shows and tech expo events.

Introducing "NOVA"

New Zealand based Eight360 has spent the last 6 years developing the NOVA system, an innovative simulator platform like nothing else on the market.

NOVA motion simulator platform from Eight360

NOVA is able to put a user inside a realistic virtual environment, while also recreating the motion sensations to go with it. The unique design - a completely untethered sphere - allows it to perform full rolls, flips and spins including going totally upside down!

That freedom to move is the main point of difference, and enables a far wider range of forces to be induced, making for a more immersive ride that gets you that much closer to the experience of real thing.

It also makes NOVA especially well suited to the motion and dynamics of a VTOL aircraft.

The product has also been built from the ground up to be practical, portable and flexible for a wide range of use-cases, while remaining simple to customize or modify for rapid prototyping and development.

The NOVA is built to disrupt, and we’re excited to help the future take to the skies!

Visit our website www.eight360.com or contact us on nova@eight360.com to find out more.

Eight360. Freedom to move.