Long Beach is now the home of one more aerospace startup.
Odys Aviation, which is striving to cut regional air travel times in half and drastically reduce carbon emissions with its new vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft, has moved its headquarters to Long Beach, the company announced today.
Getting to airfields combined with the long security screening process at many airports can add hours to overall travel time for flights that are themselves as short as 40 minutes, Odys co-founder and CEO James Dorris said.
“The world is traveling more and, frankly, people are enjoying traveling less and less,” Dorris said in a phone interview with the Business Journal.
“We’ve also got a lot of concerns about sustainability and climate change,” Dorris added, “and we’re in an environment now where there’s a significant amount of investment going into businesses and startups providing solutions.”
The firm recently raised $13.7 million in seed funding to accelerate the development of its hybrid-electric aircraft.
While still in the early development stages, the Odys craft’s current design features a wingspan of less than 50 feet with 16 rotor systems that will allow for vertical takeoff and landing in addition to cruise applications. There may be larger craft in the future, Dorris said, but for now, the configuration accommodates nine passengers along with two pilots.
The company is currently developing a one-seater version of the craft, which will be flown remotely, for a six-to-nine-month testing period set to begin this fall, Dorris said. Simultaneously, the firm is working on the first full-scale prototype, with the first flight slated for late 2023.
Dorris said the company expects the craft to be certified in late 2026 and to enter into service in 2027.
Standard security screening by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is only required for craft that carry 30 or more people, Dorris said. Since the new VTOL craft’s capacity is under that threshold, it will not require passengers to undergo TSA security checks, but rather a faster screening process, reducing travel time.
The utilization of smaller municipal and general aviation airports such as Long Beach, Palo Alto and dozens of others also will ease travel time and stress for passengers without the need for new infrastructure to be built, Dorris said.
In the future, the wingspan of the craft will allow it to land on most helipads, Dorris said, as well as infrastructure created by other air mobility companies in the coming years. For now, however, the focus is the existing infrastructure at small airports.
“We think that having that low friction to starting operations is super important,” Dorris said. “We can fly on existing flight corridors, from existing towers and existing air traffic control rules.”
The maximum range of the Odys craft is about 1,000 miles, Dorris said, but the “sweet spot” is 100-to-600-mile trips that would have passengers in the air for less than two hours, he added.
The battery will be able to power the vehicle for about 200 miles, Dorris said. For longer flights, the craft would switch over to normal jet fuel.
Aboard normal commercial planes, regional flights are mostly takeoff and descent, Dorris said, with planes not operating at a cruising altitude—which is when they are most fuel efficient—for very long.
“So these regional routes actually have a significant amount of CO2 per passenger mile, relative to longer routes,” Dorris said, adding that emissions on a 350-mile flight would be cut by about 83% with Odys’ aircraft.
“We can have a big impact,” Dorris said.
Odys is the second air mobility company to announce its interest in Long Beach in the last month and a half. In early March, Wisk Aero, which is developing an all-electric autonomous air taxi, teamed up with the Long Beach Economic Partnership to study the feasibility of the tech in the city and across the region.
“From the very first flight, to the Jet Age, and now the emergence of advanced air mobility, the aviation industry constantly evolves,” Long Beach Airport Director Cynthia Guidry said in an email. “We are eager to learn more about how this rapidly developing sector will address mobility options in a sustainable manner.”
The future of the sector is autonomous, Dorris said, but that reality is still “a long way off.” The perception of safety is just as important as the reality of it, he explained, which is why Odys will start out with two uniformed pilots, despite being certified for single-pilot operation.
After Odys establishes a track record for safety, the company will transition to single-pilot flights, Dorris said.
The company recently signed a lease for 15,000 square feet of office and hangar space with Ross Aviation at Long Beach Airport, Greg McQueary, general manager of Ross at the municipal airport, confirmed. The space has been vacant for about 15 years, McQueary added.
Dorris said the company is renovating its new office space and that the hangar is already being utilized to further the development of the company’s aircraft.
The site serves as Odys headquarters, according to Dorris. The firm has one other off-site testing facility.
“There is no better place to do big hardware transportation companies than Los Angeles,” Dorris said. “Frankly, with the amount of companies aggregating around Long Beach Airport, there’s just a great talent pool to pick from. It’s a great community.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that Odys has a testing facility outside of Long Beach.