Air Taxi, Commercial

Airbus and Hiratagakuen Partner to Test Future Flight Routes for eVTOLs in Japan

By Jessica Reed | September 14, 2022
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Hiratagakuen, a helicopter operator based in Japan, is partnering with Airbus to simulate ideal eVTOL routes in the Kansai region and to evaluate requirements for launching operations with the CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL. (Photo: Airbus)

Airbus and Japanese helicopter operator Hiratagakuen announced a new partnership last week targeting the development of advanced air mobility operations in the Kansai region of Japan. The partnership will address the requirements for launching commercial services with the CityAirbus NextGen electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. 

Airbus unveiled the fully-electric CityAirbus NextGen aircraft design nearly a year ago which resulted from the Air Mobility Initiative led by Airbus. The company has since selected partners for all of the main components and systems of the eVTOL, including choosing electric motor company MAGicALL to supply a customized version of its MAGiDRIVE generation of motors. 

Airbus and Hiratagakuen aim to address a range of operational contexts and enable air mobility services beyond those limited to urban environments. Some of the intended use cases are air medical services, sightseeing, and commercial air transport. 

The partners are planning to perform a demonstration flight later in 2022 as part of an initial joint project to create a simulation of ideal routes for eVTOLs in the region, as well as the necessary equipment and concepts of operation. Airbus and Hiratagakuen will be testing advanced navigation and communication technologies via an H135 helicopter to explore how to operate eVTOLs safely within a city.

An H135 helicopter, like the one pictured above, will be used to conduct a demonstration flight in Japan. (Photo: Airbus)

The aim of the simulation, a representative from Airbus told Avionics in an emailed statement, is “to study the feasibility and business rationale of selected flight routes that will connect key points of interest in the Kansai region.” One area of focus is exploration of paths that connect areas around two cities in the area: Osaka and Kobe.

Based in Kansai, Hiratagakuen specializes in helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS), transportation of personnel, flight training, and maintenance. “We have been operating Airbus helicopters for many years,” remarked Mitsuhiro Hirata, Vice President of the Aviation Operation Division of Hiratagakuen, in the announcement last week, “and highly appreciate their high safety, performance, and operational reliability.” 

Hirata also commented that the Hiratagakuen team is looking forward to conducting the demonstration flight with Airbus. “We are aware that a revolution in air transportation is now approaching in the Osaka area, and we expect CityAirbus NextGen to play a central role in this revolution,” he said.

“Through this simulation, we will be able to analyse relevant use cases for the communities in Kansai,” stated the representative from Airbus, “to try and find how best CityAirbus NextGen’s zero emission flights could bring added value to passengers’ journeys.”

Airbus is currently doing detailed design work on the CityAirbus NextGen after running extensive simulations and wind tunnel tests. The company announced the start of construction on a new test center in Donauwörth, Germany, in July. This center is an important step towards beginning ground and flight test campaigns for the CityAirbus NextGen, according to Airbus’s spokesperson.

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