Urban Air Mobility: Overcoming EVTOL challenges with Advanced Simulation

This blog explores three of the key EVTOL challenges in the race to electric flight and how using advanced simulation can help companies to overcome these while gaining a competitive edge when entering this new and dynamic market.   

With cities becoming more populated, everyone having a place to be, and the need to find more sustainable ways of living, urban mobility is becoming an increasingly popular topic. Current projections show that the demand for new urban air mobility is expected to reach $7,9 billion by 2030; with new players entering the arena and evolving industry standards to implement, there are a few unique challenges being faced by EVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft development organizations.

EVTOL Challenges:

  • Ensuring a Safe Flight 
  • Noise 
  • Energy Efficiency 
Electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft concept

Electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft concept

EVTOL Challenge 1: Ensuring a Safe Flight

Whilst EVTOL is an exciting new technology, it is essential to ensure the safety of the aircraft, pilots, and passengers. Because of this, companies still need to ensure that they adhere to various safety standards and certifications.  

Operation in densely populated areas leaves very little room for emergency manoeuvres and in case of accidents, both passengers and cargo onboard as well as those on the ground could be in potential danger. 

There are three key areas to consider in addressing the matter of safety: 

1. Operating in city environments with unpredictable turbulence

In order to address the issues surrounding urban mobility, EVTOL air taxis are likely to operate in city environments with turbulence, because of this, it’s important that they can fly safely in gusts while also being energy efficient and quiet. 

How can simulation help? 

Aerodynamic simulation allows designers and engineers to analyze flight dynamics and real-world conditions to understand complex failure cases. In addition to this, aerodynamic simulation can also be used to model and visualize airflow in realistic environments, allowing engineers to understand flight dynamics in complex scenarios. 

2. Lightning and High-Intensity Radio Frequency (HIRF)

When taking to the skies, we need to consider the impact of lightning and high-intensity radio frequency (HIRF) as these can each affect onboard electrical and electronic systems. 

How can simulation help? 

Using electromagnetic simulation would allow engineers to look at lightning, radar, and interference identify and predict potential interference risks and successfully mitigate them. 

3. Lightweight Materials with high strength

EVTOL aircraft needs lightweight and novel design concepts, such as a carbon-fibre monocoque. These new materials and designs need to be assessed for strength, especially in collisions with objects such as birds and drones. 

How can simulation help? 

Structural simulation can allow you to look at model bird/drone strikes and the potential effects these can have on your designs. Structural simulation models can also be used to visualize the impact and resulting forces and stresses to ensure that the aircraft maintains its integrity. 

EVTOL Challenge 2: Noise

As EVTOLs will become part of the urban landscape, they will need to be much quieter than other rotorcraft— not only to be certified but also accepted by communities by blending into the background noise. The passenger experience also plays a large role in public acceptance, because of this, it is important that the cabin is quiet and comfortable. 

What’s the challenge?

An eVTOL will generate noise. To be accepted by a community and be certified, its noise footprint will have to be unobtrusive. Broadband interactional noise will have to be taken in consideration early in the design phase and the vehicle will need to be designed around one goal: blend into the city background noise. 

How can simulation help? 

Using Aeroacoustic simulation will allow you to predict all the noise sources and their mechanisms, account for realistic atmospheric and ground topology effects and predict exactly how the vehicle will be perceived in urban environments, this allows designers to explore different concepts to reduce the noise produced and blend in the city background noise. 

EVTOL Challenge 3: Energy Efficiency

Like with electric vehicles, battery capacity and range will play a part in EVTOL development. In addition to this, EVTOLs will generate complex interactional aerodynamics and large flow separations leading to energy losses and will need the most optimized design to make the most of the battery’s limited energy density.   

There are four key areas to consider in addressing the matter of safety:

1. Battery Capacity

The challenge surrounding battery capacity is the same as that being faced by electric vehicle manufacturing teams, range vs performance. EVTOL designers and engineers need to maximize energy density while maintaining both safety and performance. 

How can simulation support? 

Using a complete simulation suite allows design and engineering teams to improve chemistry, thermal performance, and structural strength to increase the battery capacity safely.  

Additionally, by using simulation, teams will be able to determine where batteries will operate at best, within a certain range of temperature and proper cooling management to maximize the battery efficiency and life while minimizing the parasitic drag generated. 

2. Lightweighting

New concepts require new materials, and the key to getting EVTOLs off the ground is a complex mix of battery technology and lightweight materials with many concepts being created using a combination of generative design and composite materials. 

How can simulation help? 

Designers and engineers can leverage structural simulation to remove unnecessary material while ensuring they meet all strength requirements. This reduces component weight and takes the additional strain off the battery. 

3. Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics will play a large role in the energy efficiency of EVTOL aircraft, the more aerodynamic, the more energy efficient. 

How can simulation help? 

Using a Virtual Twin allows design and engineering teams to replicate physical wind tunnels on a simulated model, allowing them to analyze and adjust concepts to minimize drag and optimize rotors. 

4. Motors

EVTOL implies that the aircraft must make it off the ground and take off. In order to do this, it’s important that the motors are powerful enough to generate lift, but they must also be lightweight and energy efficient. 

How can simulation help? 

Using electromagnetic simulation allows design and engineering teams to successfully test magnet placement to minimize power consumption and optimize torque. 

Overcoming EVTOL Challenges: In Summary

If you are an emerging urban air mobility organization, we can help you optimize your design process to ensure that you are developing a safe, quiet, and efficient aircraft. 

With MODSIM you will be able to achieve the following:  

  1. Reliable Design: Our state-of-art applications are efficient, accurate, and robust for solving complex aerodynamic problems 
  2. Optimal Design: With simulation, engineers can optimize and trade-off factors including weight, power, energy consumption, noise, drag and experience 
  3. Collaborative Design: The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allows the free sharing of data to different stakeholders both internally and externally while maintaining control of who can access which information 
  4. Reduce Cost: Vehicle aerodynamic results are analysed and shared early in the design process to reduce risk and avoid costly redesigns 
  5. Reduce Time: To reduce the product development cycle, leading companies are relying on science-based modelling and simulation (MODSIM) 
  6. Get Certified: A digital thread from requirements to demonstrating the results through simulation will be the key to digital certification and compliance 

Get in touch today to find out more.

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MODSIM is a Modeling and Simulation solution that combines CAD/CAE to assist design engineers at the early stages of product development.

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