eVTOL Concept Cabin Crash tests by NASA to study passenger safety

NASA crash test

NASA recently crashed a dummy eVTOL aircraft cabin full of crash-test dummies into the ground as part of its ongoing research into the safety of new advanced air mobility technology to learn what would happen to the occupants in the case of an emergency landing. The organization published a video that features multiple perspectives of the test article collapsing into the ground as its above structure gives way.


At the Landing and Impact Research facility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, a full-scale crash was performed by NASA. The aircraft cabin was created as a test article by NASA’s Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology project, which conducts research and makes investments in the technologies that will allow the introduction of new aerial vehicles linked to advanced air mobility, such as eVTOL aircraft that can transport people or cargo in areas that are currently unserviced by aviation.

NASA fitted six anthropomorphic test devices, sometimes known as “crash test dummies,” into an eVTOL cabin without a wing or propellers for the crash test. To simulate the rotor, battery, and wing structure, a mass was put overhead. The impact of a crash on passengers of various ages was examined using dummies of varied sizes. New energy-absorbing stroking seats and an agency-developed energy-absorbing composite flooring were also tested during the experiment by NASA.


When looking at crash conditions for these types of vehicles, it’s important to note the structural weight and distribution that must be made when examining a specific design. The test was a great success for the crash-worthiness team at Langley. We successfully tested the eVTOL vehicle concept representing a six-passenger, high wing, overhead mass, multiple rotor vehicle, obtaining more than 200 channels of data, and collecting over 20 onboard and off-board camera views – said Justin Littell, a research assistant for NASA Langley’s Structural Dynamics Branch

The completely occupied cabin was raised several meters into the air, its supporting wires were destroyed with explosives, and it was swung toward the ground at an angle to simulate how an eVTOL aircraft may fall in the event of a propulsion failure or other emergency. NASA has determined that the experiment was successful despite the cabin appearing to have suffered significant damage in the collision.

While we are still going through the data and video, and these results are preliminary, we see that there are two main events that occurred during this test-  Littell added

Littell was referring to the overhead structure collapsing soon after the hit as the second occurrence. The scenario in the back seat doesn’t appear as favorable, despite the fact that the fake passengers in the front of the plane don’t appear to have been crushed by the airframe.

According to NASA, the information gathered from this crash test will help to enhance and realistically enhance these models. The information will also be used by researchers to help design the agency’s upcoming eVTOL drop test, which is planned for late 2023.

Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology Project Overview


Vertical lift vehicles are increasingly being examined for usage in novel ways that go well beyond those envisioned when thinking about typical helicopters. These new uses are made possible by their unique capacity to take off and land from any area as well as hover in position.

With the help of partners in the government, business, and academia, NASA’s Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) project is developing vital technologies that will enable a host of ground-breaking new air travel options, particularly those related to Advanced Air Mobility like large cargo-carrying vehicles and passenger-carrying air taxis.

The vertical lift industry’s capacity to safely develop and certify novel new technologies, reduce operating costs, and meet acceptable neighborhood noise levels will be crucial in opening these new markets, which are expected to grow quickly over the next ten years.

SOURCE: futureflight.aero | nasa.gov

COVER: NASA Langley | David C. Bowman