Funding boost for Overair's evtol Butterfly

Overair’s all-electric experimental prototype aircraft is set to fly in the second half of 2023 following a $145m investment from Hanwha Systems and Hanwha Aerospace.

Based in Santa Ana, California, Overair will use the funding on the ongoing development and commercialisation of Butterfly, the company’s six seat, all-electric aircraft designed to take off and land vertically.

In addition to their investment, Hanwha will also provide electric motors and battery packs for Overair's prototypes, as the two companies expand their R&D co-operation.

In a statement, Ben Tigner, co-founder and CEO of Overair said: "This is a tremendous milestone for our growing team, and we're extremely well positioned to deliver sustainable aerial ridesharing to the world through the development of Butterfly.

"We're exactly where we want to be, building a superior aircraft company with class leading mobility technology around an unrivalled aircraft while rapidly approaching the first flight of a purpose-built prototype next year. We've proven Butterfly's propulsion system, so we'll now begin validating Butterfly's ability to operate safely in real-world weather conditions, carry significant payloads, and fly incredibly quietly."

Butterfly’s advanced propulsion system is derived from military VTOL programs led by Abe Karem, the founder of Karem Aircraft from which Overair spun-out in 2020. According to Overair, the aircraft’s Optimum Speed Propulsion (OSP) uses four large propellers, which spin slowly when hovering and even slower when cruising, drawing a fraction of the available motor power. This is said to give Butterfly extra payload capacity and power margins to operate safely in challenging environmental conditions.

"Hanwha's basic principles for new business development is to focus on 'Disruptive Innovation' that can uproot and shift the market and technology trends based on its core capabilities,” said Sungchul Eoh, CEO of Hanwha Systems. "We assessed that [Overair] had the numerous…core technologies required to develop [a] highly efficient, low noise vehicle. Therefore, we expected that Overair would be capable of developing superb vehicle that can satisfy the requirements for safety, efficiency, speed, low noise, and environment-friendly features. We see the potential of Overair's Optimum Speed Propulsion system and we will continue to work together to find synergies and bring this breakthrough technology to the world."

As the company continues to work toward FAA certification, Overair is also working with NASA and Urban Movement Labs in Los Angeles to develop urban air mobility (UAM) routing and infrastructure.