Flying Electric Taxis: IIT Madras-Incubated Startup Carries Out Flight Tests Of India's First Drone With eVTOL Muscle

Karan Kamble

May 09, 2023, 11:21 PM | Updated 11:53 PM IST

Videograb of The ePlane Company's e50 flight test
Videograb of The ePlane Company's e50 flight test
  • A startup from the IIT Madras stable moves closer to making "flying electric taxis the commute norm of the day.”
  • A company incubated out of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, has said they have successfully pulled off forward flight tests of their ePlane e50.

    Notably, The ePlane Company's e50 is said to be India's first drone with eVTOL capabilities.

    “eVTOL” is short for electric vertical take-off and landing.

    It is the smaller, electric battery-fuelled avatar of the VTOL aircraft or ‘jump jet’ that military aviation companies like Harrier first launched in the early 1970s.

    Writing for Swarajya, journalist Anand Parthasarathy has described eVTOL as “the aerial version of the electric car or Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV).”

    The plane is designed to take off like a drone and fly like a plane, seemingly suitable for congested urban spaces.

    The e50 is a sub-scale version of The ePlane Company's flying electric taxi and a stepping stone to the more advanced, full-scale flying taxi, the e200.

    “We just got a big step closer to our moonshot mission,” the Chennai-based company said in a tweet announcing the flight tests.

    The 'moonshot mission' is to “make flying electric taxis the commute norm of the day.”

    Watch the video of the e50 test, which shows the various stages of the drone’s flight, including take-off, forward flight, and landing.

    “If only you could see our beaming faces right now!” the company said on LinkedIn.

    Earlier this year, in January, the company conducted a successful tether test of the e50 as a testimony to their design and technology.

    Now comes the successful flight tests.

    The ePlane Company was founded by Satya Chakravarthy, a professor of aerospace engineering at IIT Madras for two decades and twice DRDO awardee, with a vision to make electric aircraft a reality.

    They are working to build India’s first flying electric taxi — an eVTOL transportation system designed for up to tenfold faster intra-city commute and cargo transport.

    Emerging as an idea at IIT Madras in April 2017 and incorporated in February 2019, The ePlane Company wants “to make flying ubiquitous.”

    The company's promise is for anyone to be able to fly on-demand from their rooftop with just a tap of their finger.

    “Stick around, we have a few more exciting updates coming your way!” the company has promised following its ePlane e50 flight tests.

    Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.

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