Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel launched its 801 eVTOL aircraft program in June 2019. Pipistrel has been selected by Uber as one of six prospective partners for its planned Uber Air ride-sharing program. In addition to air taxi service, Pipistrel sees the aircraft as being used for applications such as emergency medical services and cargo transportation (see below)
According to the company, the 801 will be certified and ready to enter service in 2025. In August 2019, it said that the full-scale prototype will be ready to fly "within the coming year."
The design is built around eight lift fans built into the aircraft's high wing for vertical flight and a single rear-facing propeller mounted in the tail to drive the cruise phase of flight. Power comes from four battery packs (manufactured by Pipistrel itself). Pipistrel is promising a low noise footprint for the aircraft from specially designed fan blades and by ensuring that each of the eight lift fans operates at a different frequency.
Honeywell has signed as a key program partner. The U.S. company will be providing digital fly-by-wire flight controls to support autonomous operations, as well as cockpit displays, navigations systems, and its IntuVue RDR 84K phased-array radar, with detect-and-avoid capability, landing zone detection, and a radar altimeter.
At the TexasUP summit meeting on November 20-21, 2019, Pipistrel reportedly indicated that it is switching research and development priorities to a new cargo-carrying, unmanned eVTOL aircraft. According to reports in EVTOL.com, the unnamed model would initially be hybrid-electric powered with four rotors on either side of the fuselage and a single pusher propeller at the rear. Very few details were released, but, according to EVTOL.com, the aircraft will offer a payload of 660 pounds (300 kg) and range of up to 186 miles (300 km). This report stated that a first flight with a prototype is anticipated by the end of 2020, with first deliveries to a prospective customer in southeast Asia projected during 2022. Pipistrel also has reportedly partnered with Dutch company Wings for Aid to develop self-landing boxes that will carry humanitarian aid. What also remains unclear is the extent to which the decision to prioritise the cargo eVTOL aircraft may impact projected timelines for the passenger-carrying 801 model. On November 27, Pipistrel declined to confirm or deny whether reports about its presentation at the private TexasUP briefing were correct. The company has previously mentioned the possibility of a cargo drone in other presentations.
In May 2020, the company confirmed that it will work at a slower pace on the Pipistrel 801 eVTOL. Instead it has prioritized development work for a new family of cargo UAVs and also for a 19-seat regional airliner that is expected to be powered by hydrogen. On September 1, it unveiled the Nuuva family of cargo UAVs, consisting of a larger, long-range V300 model and the smaller V20 for last-mile courier services. The following month, Pipistrel’s Velis Electro was issued approval by becoming the world’s first full type certification for a fully electric aircraft to be certified by EASA.
On December 8, 2020, Uber Technologies lost its majority share of its Advanced Technologies Group with which Pipistrel’s 801 eVTOL program had been a close partner.
In March, 2022, U.S. aviation group Textron announced it was acquiring Pipistrel. The company indicated its intention to continue investing in Pipistrel’s plans, although without giving a specific timeline commitment for the 801 eVTOL project.