ASX Flies Tiltwing eVTOL Air Taxi Demo With Plug-And-Play Payloads

ASX’s Sigma Six has six rotors on a tilting wing, interchangeable payload modules and an automated ground vehicle to handle them.
Credit: Airspace Experience Technologies

Detroit startup Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX) has completed the first hover flight of its proof-of-concept Sigma Six, a tiltwing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle with interchangeable plug-and-play payloads for defense, emergency response, cargo and passenger transport missions.

The full-scale demonstrator was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Sept. 14 as part of a new Air Mobility Experience showcase. ASX completed the first tethered flight of the Sigma Six earlier this month and plans to expand the flight envelope through the rest of 2022 and into 2023 as it secures additional batteries.

ASX was founded in 2017, when it unveiled the Mobi concept for a tail-sitting eVTOL aircraft that could carry modular payloads, including a four-seat passenger cabin for air taxi operations. In 2019, ASX revealed a revised tiltwing design, the Mobi-One.

The Sigma Six has further design changes, although the modular payload concept remains in place. In place of the Mobi-One’s four contra-rotating propellers on the leading edge of the tilting wing, the new design has six props, two on the wingtips and four on swept pylons above and below the wing. The redesign reduced wingspan to 40 ft., says ASX founder and CEO Jon Rimanelli.

The aircraft has a V tail on a boom that extends from under the wing with a thruster on the tip to blance the aircraft in hover. The tilting wing is mounted on top of this boom, and the interchangeable payloads are attached underneath, on the center of gravity. With the wing tilted upward, four fixed landing-gear legs extend from motor nacelles at the tips of the pylons.

The different payload modules are removed and replaced using an automated ground vehicle. Designed by Michigan-based animatronics and robotics provider Mannetron, this vehicle has omnidirectional mobility and the ability to lift and lower the payload to attach and detach it at the aircraft.

The ground vehicle, now in early testing for integration with the aircraft, will move cargo pods from warehouses or factories to the aircraft to be flown to regional distribution centers, ASX says.

The idea of using detachable flight modules for different missions, such as carrying cargo or passengers, decreases production and maintenance costs and increases reliability, ASX says, adding the design is focused on safety and simplicity with the minimum moving parts to minimize failure modes.

ASX is launching its Series A fundraising to develop the Ssigma six and also plans to raise funds through Republic, an investment platform that enables individuals to invest in startups. ASX previously raised about $750,000 in seed funding through a crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest in 2021.

The company has announced agreements with two Michigan companies to lease aircraft once the Sigma Six is certified. Helicopter sightseeing operator MyFlightTours has agreed to lease up to 25 aircraft and aerospace and automotive logistics provider ICAT Logistics to lease up to 25 for expedited freight delivery services. Both companies cite the benefits of the expected low noise of the eVTOL aircraft.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.