There will soon be a new butterfly flying over Southern California. Overair today announced the completion of its full-scale Butterfly electric air-taxi prototype. The Santa Ana firm expects to begin flight tests early next year.
Overair joins other California-based eVTOL competitors Joby and Archer, as well as European firms like Volocopter, Lillium and Vertical Aerospace, in testing their electric air taxis. A number of these manufacturers expect to have FAA certification by 2025, with commercial operations starting shortly afterwards.
Overair CEO Ben Tigner, according to the Orange County Business Journal, expects FAA certification in 2027. “Shortly thereafter we should be able to begin commercial operations,” he told the paper.
The Butterfly incorporates four 20-foot-long rotors—about twice as large as other eVTOL models—into its design. Overair says the Optimum Speed Tilt Rotor (OSTR) and Individual Blade Control (IBC) technologies also differentiate its electric aircraft from competitors. OSTR varies propeller revolutions per minute to increase efficiency across vertical, transitional, and forward flight phases. It can also reduce power demand during the hover phase—the most energy-consuming part of an eVTOL flight—by 60 per cent. IBC also reduces vibration and propeller loads, resulting in a smoother, quieter flight, according to the company.
“Together, these technologies deliver an efficient, quiet, and reliable propulsion system in almost any weather, temperature, or altitude,” said a company statement. Tigner co-founded Overair in 2020 with Predator drone pioneer Abe Karem, who remains closely involved with the Butterfly project.
The Butterfly will have space for a pilot, five passengers and bags. The zero-emissions craft will have a 100-mile range and 200-mph top end, and theoretically, will be the quietest eVTOL on the market. The company it is designed to have no single point of failure, with the ability to hover on two of its four propellers.
After initial testing in Santa Ana, the prototype will move to Overair’s flight centre in Victorville, California, to test in different flight and weather conditions, as well as validating its 55-decibel noise target—equivalent to a normal conversation between two people. The Butterfly can be configured for different markets, including passenger, medical, cargo and military applications.
Overair has signed development agreements with authorities in Arlington, Texas, and Dallas-Fort Worth to explore eVTOL transport from those airports, as well as recently taking orders for 20 aircraft for South Korea air taxis and police. It recently received a US$145 million investment from a South Korean backer, according to the Business Journal.