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Kelekona proposes colossal 40-seater mass transport eVTOL aircraft
Kelekona proposes colossal 40-seater mass transport eVTOL aircraft
By Loz Blain
May 27, 2021
New York City startup Kelekona is proposing a mass transport-sized eVTOL air
bus service capable of carrying 40 people long distancesKelekona /
VIEW 3 IMAGES
Most eVTOL companies are thinking at air taxi scale, offering just 2-5
seats. Lilium is a notable exception, putting forth a whopping 7-seat "air
minibus" design and prioritizing longer trips. But there are very few
companies thinking at the kind of scale Kelekona's talking about.
This audacious New York City startup is thinking in terms of 40 passengers
plus a pilot per flight – or an enormous 10,000 lb (4,540 kg) of cargo. And
apparently long distances and high speeds, too, since the Kelekona website
promises these VTOL sky buses will make the 330-mile (531 km) run between LA
and San Francisco in just one hour.
The airframe is certainly an interesting design. It'll rise off the ground
in VTOL operations using four banks of two large, ducted fans with variable
pitch blades. These fan banks will tilt forward to get this giant bird
moving into forward flight – but where most vectored thrust eVTOLs have
large, wide wings, Kelekona plans to rely on the body shape alone to provide
enough lift for efficient forward flight.
Thus, it's got a chunky, flat, wide body with a mild teardrop shape to its
side profile. The front is rounded, the rear end tapered. The bottom looks
pretty flat, and the top is slightly domed to turn the whole blobby thing
into a lifting surface.
The Kelekona aircraft's entire body is one giant wing
The look is bizarre and a little blimpy, and we're fascinated to learn how
the aerodynamics will work out. Surely it'll have to be moving pretty damn
fast to support itself in the sky carrying 40 people and the kind of
colossal battery bank you'll need for inter-city flights.
Charging those puppies will be no trivial matter, either; we must be talking
about several megawatt-hours' worth of high-density lithium batteries here.
Plug it into a wall socket and you might be ready to fly the thing back to
home base in a few weeks. Thus Kelekona is planning to make the entire
battery pack swappable, rolling the whole underfloor of the aircraft out to
be slow-charged while the big sky bus moves on to its next destination.
The only other similar eVTOL mass transit project that springs to mind is
Britain's GKN Aerospace with its Skybus aircraft, which proposes offering
30-50 seats on cross-town vertical commutes. But GKN is planning to use two
enormous connected wings to get the job done. The advantages and
disadvantages are immediately clear; the GKN design will produce a lot more
lift, flying much more efficiently at slower speeds, but with 50 seats in
its cabin it may well be as wide as a 747. Finding space to safely launch
and land these things in city areas won't be easy.
Heavily tapered back end helps the body shape generate lift at speed
The Kelekona design, on the other hand, might be able to operate off
something 3-4 times the size of a regular helipad. Still challenging to make
space for in an urban environment, but easier than if it had a couple
hundred feet of wingspan to think about. It's going to have to fly fast and
far to operate efficiently, though, and that means its energy requirements
will be absolutely epic.
It's a fascinating and different proposition that seems aerodynamically
improbable and energetically even harder. We've lined up a chat with the
founder to talk it through, and will bring you more on this extremely odd
aircraft in the coming days.
Check out a render video below.
A different class of eVTOL
Source: Kelekona https://www.kelekona.com/ via FutureFlight
Loz has been one of our most versatile contributors since 2007, and has
since proven himself as a photographer, videographer, presenter, producer
and podcast engineer, as well as a senior features writer. Joining the team
as a motorcycle specialist, he's covered just about everything for New
Atlas, concentrating lately on eVTOLs, hydrogen, energy, aviation,
audiovisual, weird stuff and things that go fast.
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CarolynFarstrider MAY 27, 2021 03:02 AM
Am I right in thinking this looks like Thunderbird 2?
Towerman MAY 27, 2021 03:47 AM
A bit strange to look at..... but i welcome diversity, EVTOL's will at some
stage carry large payload/more pax. And this could be the start of that
specific niche within the regular smaller payload taxi niche.
The Big Elephant of course is the question, what will power it to 530 km of
I for one know it will be possible, however battery tech/fuel cell tech for
long range aircraft is just still slightly out of reach, thats why the 2-4
seater taxi market is perfect for now.
dan MAY 27, 2021 04:50 AM
energy requirements will be absolutely epic. that said, it will neither be
ecological nor economically competitive, beside "offering" all the cons of
eVTOLs (1000 feet death zone, very short flight time, software/
certification issues...). I am not sorry for the ones investing in these
fantasies... But I like the renderings! ;-)
vince MAY 27, 2021 07:07 AM
Looks like a flying saucer.
Arcticshade MAY 27, 2021 08:11 AM
What cons ? Sorry that's far from accurate,
i'm With TM the sloppy armchair comments needs to be addressed.
Every aircraft has got a death zone, not to mention high disc loading
helicopters, auto rotation being useless in too many cases to mention,
failed engines at V1 on airplanes, these accidents have happened many a
times in real life and yet they are still certified ! Unbelievable.
It's time to wake up and face reality, multicopters are superior machines
with utmost reliability that normal aircraft cannot touch.
EVTOL's have redundancy that have been tested to be superior to prevent
I seem to recall just on the other thread you commenting without any
knowledge, here you do the exact same.
Ecologically and economically it will be far superior than any other
existing transport aircraft, clearly you don't understand the technology
whatsoever, software/hardware what about it, it is absolutely solid, tried
and tested for over a decade, as mentioned in the Volo comment section in
the previous article as well.
Renderings ? Haha, are you coming out of a cave ? Similar aircraft is flying
already in front of your eyes for many years, get in touch with reality and
get with the Future.
The Sky looks bright for EVTOL's to take off in a dramatic and global
clay MAY 27, 2021 08:17 AM
The whole lifting-body thing seems like a great idea, and a very
underexploited one. It is not a new idea and yet in the end, economics and
standards win the day.
This hardshell blimp seems odd though, because it has no other apparent
aero-control surfaces. With a slightly-heavier-than-air or a bonafide
lighter-than-air craft, this is feasible simply due to the safety factor
such buoyancy provides...but even then, they typically have control
This craft makes the argument for Airlander and Lockheed to get into the
Edward Vix MAY 27, 2021 08:18 AM
This slideware will never fly, both figuratively and literally.
Bob Flint MAY 27, 2021 09:58 AM
A slick hard shelled blimp with active airfoils, what sort of gas inside?
gettodacessna MAY 27, 2021 10:11 AM
I see you posting about a "death zone" on every single eVTOL news article.
I'm not saying this particular example of an eVTOL is good, but you might be
missing the point that with enough redundancy, there is no longer a death
zone. Just think about it for a minute or so. If one failure doesn't cause a
total loss of power, then when does this death zone occur? Isn't this the
same reason a lot of jetliners have multiple engines? So they can keep
flying if something goes wrong?
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