Blackfly Flies at AirVenture Show Center

 - July 27, 2021, 8:59 PM
A most unusual sight at this year's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show was Opener's Blackfly electric personal air vehicle. (Photo: Matt Thurber/AIN)

Highly-secretive eVTOL aircraft developer Opener gave a rare public glimpse of its BlackFly single-seat vehicle when it briefly climbed into the air before thousands of onlookers at this week's EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The July 27 flight was billed as the first manned flight of the BlackFly in a public venue and it was one of two eVTOL aircraft to make manned public debut flights during the event, with the other being Volocopter's VoloCity model. The Blackfly demo was flown by Opener test pilot Eleanor Li.

The first manned flight of the initial eVTOL design took place a decade ago in 2011 at Warkworth in Canada. In 2014, the company moved to Palo Alto, California, and was reorganized as Opener. Development continued, eventually resulting in the production version of the BlackFly, which was launched in 2018. More than 4,300 flights have been conducted so far, with testing being conducted almost entirely in stealth mode.

Dubbed a "personal aerial vehicle,” Opener says the BlackFly will require no FAA certification nor a pilot’s license, as it falls under FAA Part 103 regulations for ultralight aircraft. It is designed to operate from land or water, carrying a single pilot who can control the aircraft via fly-by-wire flight controls operated by a joystick.

With an empty weight of 343 pounds, the maximum payload is 200 pounds, and the cockpit can fit a six-foot, six-inch person. The airframe is made of epoxy-impregnated carbon-fiber and is fitted with eight electric motors, powered by batteries installed in the wings. Maximum cruise speed is 62 mph, climb rate 500 feet per minute, and range 25 miles with 8 kWh batteries. A ballistic parachute is mounted forward of the cockpit canopy in case of an emergency such as a total power failure.

Opener hasn’t revealed the price for the BlackFly, but a spokeswoman told FutureFlight that it should be in the range of a sport-utility vehicle. Initial pricing will be higher, for a “signature series” with all the options, until Opener can manufacture in higher volume and bring costs down, she added. However, Opener isn’t taking orders yet.

Meanwhile, the company says it has built 30 full-size aircraft and 250 sets of wings in preparation for volume production. It is now developing a pilot training program. 

Rival personal aerial vehicle developer Aska is also at the Oshkosh show this week, signing up prospective early buyers for its four-seat model. The company showed sub-scale prototypes of the design.