CAFE Symposium Explores Flight’s Future

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After 10 years of annual gatherings, participants at the CAFE Foundation’s Electric Aviation Symposium are “starting to get realistic about technology, business strategies and certification,” executive director Yolanka Wulff told AVweb this week. There are more than 100 eVTOL projects now in development, she said. “There’s a call for companies to work together, and maybe each focus on certain components—an airframe or charging system—instead of an entire vehicle,” Wulff said. The challenges now are not only to continue to develop the technology, but also to face the barriers in place regarding infrastructure, investment and certification. “I think we all recognize we’re not going to have 100 different companies successfully rolling out eVTOLs,” she said. “Investment dollars are one way that companies are going to be down-selected.” However, fixed-wing electric flight is consistently making strides, Wulff said, citing aircraft by Pipistrel, Eviation and Bye Aerospace. “With the Part 23 rewrite, there is a clear path to certification” for those aircraft, Wulff said.

For eVTOLs, the pathway still has a long way to go. “I think we’re going to start to see applications, but for urban air taxis, it’s going to take a long time for public acceptance and the regulatory structure to catch up,” Wulff said. CAFE also is working to ensure that all electric aircraft will be able to use one universal type of charger, to make it more practical for pilots to travel. About 60 participants from five continents attended this year’s symposium. The move to Oshkosh, the weekend before AirVenture, has proved popular, Wulff said, and this year CAFE lowered the registration fee for the two-day event to $175. Also, CAFE partnered with the Vertical Flight Society to record video of all the speakers. Those videos will be available free at the CAFE website in about eight weeks. Speakers at the event represented NASA, Uber Elevate, GAMA, Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing, Kitty Hawk and more.

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