40 Seats, Room for Cargo, 5X More Fuel Efficient than a Helicopter: LYTE Aviation Hybrid eVTOL SkyBus, SkyTruck

LYTE Aviation Unveils SkyBus and SkyTruck Hybrid eVTOL

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

Today, advanced air mobility innovator LYTE Aviation unveiled its 40-seat (hybrid) eVTOL SkyBus and SkyTruck programme. Its LA-44 SkyBus, an eVTOL vehicle designed to be five times more fuel efficient than current helicopters, and SkyTruck cargo variant, designed around a 4.5 tonne payload, are the result of three years’ R&D.

Built primarily with currently available technology, the SkyBus will possess a 1,000 km range and a max speed of 300 km/hr. It utilizes two propulsion systems, one of which is electric and powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and the other turbine powered by jet fuel / SAF.

The LA-44 is a hybrid electric tandem tilt-wing design powered by four conventional turbine engines running on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). It also utilizes four electric motors at the wingtips for greater control and stability, powered by hydrogen fuel cells. A full-scale prototype is being planned within 24 months.

“The use of turbine engines will likely remain unavoidable for the foreseeable future, so in order to achieve useful and business-sensible ranges as well as quicker time to market, we have opted for a hybrid, partly electric VTOL,” explained LYTE Aviation Founder and CEO Freshta Farzam. “My personal inspiration with this operating concept stems from the Rotodyne aircraft of the 1950’s. Imagine 70 years later after accomplishing those 350 successful test flights, what can be achieved thanks to the advances in technology that we have seen, and continue to see.”

“Conventional, highly reliable turboprops are the best option for our aircraft programme for the time being, with the aim to operate and refuel practically anywhere with the current infrastructure. With the constant evolution and expected investment in global infrastructure, including vertiports, energy sources (SAF & green Hydrogen) and electric powerplants, the ambition would be to become fully hydrogen-electric in the future,” she added.

“We are focusing on facilitating the easy movement of passenger and cargo air transportation in a fast, safe, cost-effective and sustainable way. SkyTruck will be designed to deliver time-sensitive cargo faster from point to point, without reliance on runways, designed for the time critical demands of the onshore and (especially) offshore industry,” said Freshta. “Furthermore, the LA-44 would be honed for operation in other rugged operational conditions and (in the absence of ground infrastructure) in remote areas. It will feature underslung load capability: a 4.5 tonne payload and 17 tonnes’ gross weight.”

“The LA-44’s unique design will enable us to tap mass transport capabilities, displacing air transport and land transport modalities such as buses, trains and trucks, ” Freshta added. “LYTE Aviation’s vision is to significantly enhance speed and frequency of passenger mass transit and cargo deliveries. The LA-44 represents the work of LYTE’s world-class team, who collectively hold 200 years’ aviation experience.”

LYTE Aviation’s vision for an exponentially growing aviation market is shared by newly signed partners Inmarsat, a leading supplier of satellite communication services, and aerospace design organization and inflight specialist Inflight Canada. The partners were announced by Freshta this afternoon at Helicopter Investor 2023 in London. Additional key partners will be announced later this year.

“Inmarsat is excited to team with LYTE Aviation and be a key partner in delivering a safety information service to and from the LA-44 platform, as part of a line-fit delivery programme for its hybrid electric vehicle,” commented Anthony Spouncer, Senior Director of ITM at Inmarsat. “Inmarsat has been a trusted provider of critical safety communications for aviation for over 30 years. Its systems are assured, proven and available line-fit with major OEMs globally.“

“IFC is very excited and keenly interested in participating with the development of a SkyTruck version of the LA-44,” said Inflight Canada General Manager George Smallhorn. “With a range of 1000km and the flexibility of vertical operations, the sheer usefulness of this aircraft is well beyond the current technology in use today.”

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Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.