Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX), a Detroit-based air mobility company, unveiled its electric Sigma Six multi-use aircraft yesterday at the Detroit Auto Show, and made announcements regarding development and commercialization partners.
ASX, based at Coleman A. Young International Airport (Detroit City Airport), began flight tuning and testing the Sigma Six, also known as an eVTOL aircraft (electric vertical takeoff and landing) in August after final engineering was completed. The aircraft successfully made its first tethered flight earlier this month.
Flight testing requires a series of validation steps to ensure safety, and ASX will expand the testing envelope through the rest of the year and into 2023. The aircraft’s original design lowers production and maintenance costs, while boosting reliability and efficiency.
ASX states the Sigma Six will be the next big breakthrough in mobility, as it will shorten the transit of cargo, passengers, military payloads, and first responders via fleets of tilt-wing, six-engine aircraft that can pick up, transport, and land swappable pods — including passenger cabins — in safe, confined, and protected areas.
“It’s a tilt-wing aircraft that takes off vertically like a helicopter, transitions to plane mode flight, and flies forward like a plane,” says Jon Rimanelli, founder and chairman of ASX. “When you arrive at your destination, the wing transitions again and lands like a helicopter — but remember, the engine is electric, so there’s very limited noise. And it can be five times faster than driving, for the same cost.”
The swappable pods seamlessly connect to the fixed wing using a ground robot. A pod designed for cargo can ferry up to 2,000 pounds a distance of 100 miles (and more as battery range improves), while the passenger module will seat five to seven passengers, including a pilot.
“Detroit has been a leader in mobility for 100 years, and here’s an opportunity for our community to take a novel approach to mobility and make it the standard for the future,” Rimanelli says. “Our expectation is our volumes will achieve a level where it’s economically accessible for the mass traveling public.”
With an eye on certification, the ASX engineering team focused on safety and in simplicity in the vehicle design. The ASX Sigma Six boasts one of the most flexible platforms on the market, with the fewest moving parts that minimizes failure modes and reduces development and manufacturing costs.
“New vehicle technologies are enabling all new classes of aircraft and ground vehicles to help improve the quality of life for people and enhance economic performance,” says Rimanelli. “Gridlock traffic and carbon emissions are a big problem. We need to do something different. We built a vehicle with smart, quality engineering that can serve a broad purpose in all modes and continue to evolve into the future.”
Throughout the Sigma Six development process, ASX identified critical partners that could help create and deploy the vehicle they envisioned. The announced partners include MyFlightTours at Detroit City Airport, a leading provider of helicopter sightseeing tours with locations throughout the state.
“We are very excited to partner with ASX to deliver cutting-edge technology throughout our operations in Michigan and beyond,” says Sergio Troani, founder and CEO of MyFlightTours. “Electric VTOLs will continue to position MyFlight as an industry leader in sightseeing tours. Upon certification, we will be leasing up to 25 aircraft to expand our business, specifically in areas we may not be able to due to noise.”
In addition, ICAT Logistics in Taylor, a premium logistics provider for the automotive and aerospace industry, has signed an MOU to lease 25 aircrafts for premium expedited freight delivery services.
“We are looking forward to working with ASX to deliver expedited cargo mobility to our suppliers,” says Chris Cser, vice president of ICAT Logistics. “The ability to hot swap cargo containers and keep the freight moving in a clean and quiet manner is very exciting for our company’s business and sustainability objectives.”
Another partner is Mannetron, an animatronics and robotics provider based in Battle Creek. Rimanelli was a former employee at Mannetron in 1993, and recently collaborated with his mentor, Peter Jungen, to design and build an automated ground vehicle to perform the job of plugging and playing different payloads into the aircraft. The vehicle features omnidirectional mobility with a z-axis lifting capability.
The ground vehicle will move cargo PODs from warehouse or factory environments to the aircraft to be flown to regional distribution centers. The ground vehicle is in its early stages of testing for integration with the aircraft.
“Doing this project in Detroit with the best suppliers and original equipment suppliers as partners positioned ASX and the Sigma Six for the most optimal engineering and design,” says Rimanelli
ASX also announced it has been awarded $50,000 as a Test Site Deployment Grant through the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform for the proposed project with Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) Test Site Partner, Michigan Unmanned Aerial Systems Consortium (MUASC).
“Having the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and NextEnergy as partners in testing is very exciting. Our vision for this project is not only about creating a more efficient transportation system, but also growing an industry that can have a significant impact on Michigan,” says Rimanelli.
With flight testing in its early stages, and several OEM partnerships that are unfolding, ASX is putting Sigma Six in front of a broad investor pool. The market potential is currently estimated at $1 trillion by 2040 and $9 trillion by 2050. Rimanelli sees a compelling opportunity for Detroit and the State of Michigan to cultivate the industry with its globally superior vehicle engineering and manufacturing base.
ASX is raising money through Republic. Republic is a financial technology firm that allows everyone to invest in private markets.
For more information about ASX, visit iflyasx.com.