Odys Aviation working towards full transition flight in 2024

Odys Aviation is a sustainable aviation company building vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The company, which was founded in 2019 and is based in Long Beach, California, is pioneering the……


Odys Aviation is a sustainable aviation company building vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The company, which was founded in 2019 and is based in Long Beach, California, is pioneering the next generation of VTOL aircraft which use hybrid-electric propulsion systems to deliver the balance between performance and sustainability. Co-founder and CEO James Dorris spoke to FINN about the progress being made towards sustainable flight.

What milestones has Odys Aviation marked in 2023?

2023 was a busy year for the company. Since closing our seed round, we have built and tested eight prototypes, the largest of which is a 21ft wingspan human-scale aircraft. During the latter stages of the year, we kicked off our transition flight testing plan and we are in the final stages of completing conceptual design work for our flagship product, our nine-passenger aircraft Alta. We also made certification progress with regulators in both the US and EU and are continuing active discussions with both as we move into 2024.

On the business expansion front, our engagements in the UAE continued to grow, and Odys was selected to participate in UAE’s NextGen FDI programme. We signed pre-orders and options contracts forover 1,200 of our aircraft, valued at over $10bn, and won eight DoD contracts valued at over $12m. Our momentum with the DoD increased further as we expanded ourcustomer development activities and focused our Laila aircraft on high-value DoD mission sets.

Have the last 12 months been a defining period for the company in terms of progressing its VTOL aircraft?

Absolutely. The pace of our aircraft testing moved swiftly through the course of the year and the design, build and testing of our human-scale prototype aircraft was 40% faster than our industry peers, using just 10% of the capital; a testament to the innovation of the world-class engineering team Odys has assembled. Further, 2023 saw the Odys team invited to demonstrate our aircraft at JIFX on a number of occasions. The Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) is an invitation-only event that brings technology developers together with key DoD stakeholders – from Navy Seals to Special Forces, CENTCOM to STRATCOM, and a lot of others in between, and testing here allowed us to validate critical aircraft systems including transition flight controls, system lift generation and closed-loop control modules.

Looking ahead to 2024, what does Odys hope to achieve?

2024 will see the Odys team focusing on progressing the flight testing envelope towards full transition flight. Outside flight testing, we’ll be continuing to prioritise completing our EASA design verification for our commercial Laila cargo UAV, alongside working towards achieving Means of Compliance for our Alta aircraft.

How might the industry look different this time next year?

Odys Aviation’s core purpose is to solve regional mobility issues and we believe that to do that, de-risking the path to launch is key. Our business model starts with commercialising Laila, a UAV for cargo and military applications. That aircraft does not require a Type Certificate so speed-to-market is far greater than many other AAM companies. Building a smaller aircraft de-risks our future safety and regulatory efforts, and we’re on track to deliver pre-production aircraft to DoD by 2025 for paid test and evaluation. Once that programme is generating revenue, the pathway to develop a commercial airliner will become smoother, building on the same proven technology but with added safety and manufacturing considerations.

Based on the evolution of the AAM industry in just the past two or so years, we expect to see conversations shifting towards hybrid propulsion vs. full electric propulsion as a quicker route to delivering meaningful passenger services, and to see momentum gathering around questions of industry viability in terms of infrastructure support. Given Odys is able to take off with or without a runway and utilise existing airport infrastructure for operations, we’re excited to help shape the conversations around how AAM will look in the short, medium and long-term future.
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