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Fiction Science Club

Zeva’s flying saucer concept ascends to the next level

Eight months ago, Zeva Aero conducted a milestone flight test for an electric-powered flying saucer that would warm the heart of any sci-fi fan. Now the Tacoma, Wash.-based startup has changed the design ⁠— and although Zeva’s Z2 will look less like a UFO, it will look more real.

“It’s not just science fiction,” Zeva CEO Stephen Tibbitts says.

Tibbitts explains what’s changed since January, and why, in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast, which focuses on the intersection of science and fiction.

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Zeva’s flying saucer aces its first free flight

After years of effort, Tacoma, Wash.-based Zeva has executed the first untethered, controlled flight test of its full-scale flying machine — a contraption that looks like a flying saucer.

The demonstration was conducted Jan. 9 in a pasture in rural Pierce County, not far from Zeva’s HQ. During four separate sorties, the Zero aircraft racked up more than four minutes of controlled hovering, simulated taxiing maneuvers at slow speeds, and limited vertical-climb maneuvers.

Zeva’s flying saucer is an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing craft, or eVTOL, that’s powered by four pairs of rotors. It’s designed to lift off vertically with a single pilot, then transition to a horizontal orientation to fly at speeds of up to 160 mph with a range of up to 50 miles.

“This is a huge inflection point for Zeva as we join an exclusive set of proven flying eVTOL platforms, and a testament to the relentless hard work and ingenuity of our entire team over the past two and a half years,” Stephen Tibbitts, Zeva’s CEO and chairman, said today in a news release.

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Zeva builds flying saucer to take aim at GoFly Prize

Zero air vehicle
An artist’s conception shows Team Zeva’s Zero personal air vehicle in flight. (Zeva Illustration)

Team Zeva’s entry in the Boeing-backed $2 million GoFly Prize competition looks like a flying saucer that’s built for one — but there’s method behind the science-fiction madness.

“That’s typically the comment that it draws: ‘It looks like a flying saucer,’ ” the leader of the Tacoma, Wash.-based team, Stephen Tibbitts, told GeekWire. “What drove us to the shape is, we knew we wanted to maximize our wing area in the space allotted.”

The GoFly Prize was established in 2017 to encourage innovation in the development of personal air vehicles. The rules state that teams must design one-person flying machines that are capable of making vertical or near-vertical takeoffs and taking 20-mile area trips, all without refueling or recharging.

The machines can be jetpacks, or flying motorcycles, or giant quadcopters, but all of the hardware has to fit within an 8.5-foot-wide sphere. In Team Zeva’s view, a flying saucer makes the most use of that volume.

Get the full story on GeekWire.