Overair has recently released new details about their new electric VTOL air taxi, dubbed the Butterfly. Built to withstand rough weather conditions, the 6-seater aircraft will have a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 200 mph. In addition, the Butterfly will be all electric and have zero carbon emissions. The key feature of the Butterfly’s design is the propulsion system. With four large propulsors, the Butterfly’s propulsion system has a large disk area, allowing it to use less power in VTOL mode and make it more efficient overall.

According to Ben Tigner, CEO of Overair, “Our fundamental technology advantage, the propulsion, that we bring to the party here is inherently more efficient. We get more thrust for less power, that’s why we’re able to go battery only, not needing the hybrid solution. So we have larger rotors, larger propulsors than most other people in the industry so we can generate the thrust unit for flight, using less kilowatts and less kilowatt-hours.”

The aircraft’s design also factors in noise emissions reductions, according to Tigner. The large disk area allows for minimal pressure disturbances from the system, which generates less noise during flight compared to other similar sized aircraft.

“It’s also going to be very very quiet,” said Tigner, “We anticipated that will be the quietest eVTOL vehicle in the field, and that is based on the fact that it has the largest rotors in the field and we’re able to spin the rotors very slowly. Not only is the amount of sound, the intensity of the sounds generated by the propulsion system very low, but also the character of the sound is such that the frequency projected is at a place where the human ear is very insensitive. So it really should be an extraordinarily quiet aircraft, quieter than anything else that’s out there in the industry right now.”

Overair’s Butterfly.
Photograph: Overair

The Butterfly will officially debut as a piloted eVTOL air taxi, capable of flying 5 passengers or a cargo payload of 1,100 lb. However, Overair has plans to implement automated flight in the future. For this purpose, the Butterfly will start out equipped with a full authority fly-by-wire system that provides an avenue for future automated flight. According to Tigner, “We’ve adopted an approach that really bites down on the notion of simplified vehicle operation where we’ve sort of adopted the view that you should have an interface…is a smooth transition between hover control and or flight control in a mode, similar to what you see on the F-35, you know, the unified command approach that defines how the sticks translate from hover controlling to into forward flight control. The fly by wire system, by virtue of the fact that it is full authority, has the ability to implement important envelope protections that prevent the vast majority of human error type accidents.”

The company expects the prototype model of the Butterfly to first take flight next year, and to receive FAA certification sometime in 2025. As of now, Overair anticipates that their main areas of commercial operation will be in the United States and South Korea.

Why it’s important: Through the Butterfly’s all-electric energy source, efficient propulsion system, and minimal noise emissions, Overair looks to provide the public with a design that addresses some of the biggest concerns in the aerial mobility industry. While in the early stages of development compared to other competitors, Overair’s Butterfly could quickly become a strong contender in the aerial mobility industry within the next decade.