With interest in eVTOL aircraft at an all-time high and dozens of companies aiming to have aircraft in production by the end of the decade, NASA recently crash-tested a version of a generic eVTOL fuselage. The composite structure was winched about 30ft above a concrete floor and then released, impacting from a slanting trajectory in a simulation of an emergency landing.

It should be noted that the test article was not a copy of any of the myriad eVTOLs now under development but was built by NASA. The decision was made to assume that all the weight of the overhead structure was over the cabin, and weights were fixed to the roof to simulate the mass of a real eVTOL’s wings and engines. NASA reported that during the test the cabin did not offer much protection to the six crash test dummies onboard, although the agency noted that there are many other overhead-mass configurations, which may behave differently in a crash.

The energy-absorbing floor and seats functioned as designed, but NASA engineers were surprised that the
roof of the passenger cabin collapsed with the weight of the simulated wing structure. “Our computational pre-test models did a good job predicting the composite deformation until overhead structural failure,” said NASA spokesman Justin Littell, adding, “however, the computational models did not predict the overall collapse as seen in the test.”