Advanced Air Mobility Interviews

An Interview with AutoFlight

An Interview with AutoFlight

In AutoFlight’s perspective, which cities would be the most promising to lead the UAM operation in China?

At the current time, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen would be the most promising cities to take the lead in implementing UAM along with the capitals of some provinces (such as Hunan, Anhui and Jiangxi) that are piloting low-altitude flight.

First of all, megacities have the most urgent demand for easing ground traffic congestion and have higher demand for traffic timeliness. Secondly, the existing helicopter routes in these cities can be used as eVTOL routes in the early stages: moreover, since the charging facilities for electric cars are pretty abundant in these cities, they can be used for eVTOLs as well.

The rise of emerging transportation alternatives in China, whether the railway transit in the early 21 century, or the popularity of electric cars, all began from large cities with high acceptance of new things. Thus, we believe these cities would be the most promising to take the lead.

AutoFlight put forward the strategic planning of “from small to big, from cargo to manned, to product from service, from China to the world”. Could you expand on this plan?

“From small to big, from cargo to manned” refers to the product series of AutoFlight which covers a number of models including the series that carries goods and the series that are manned: The White Shark series with a maximum takeoff weight of 70 kg, The V400 Albatross with a maximum takeoff weight of 400 kg, and the V1500M with a maximum takeoff weight of 1500 kg. At which the V50 series and V400 are autonomous aerial vehicle for transporting goods, and V1500M is a manned aircraft.

The main reasons for adopting “from small to large, from cargo to manned” are as follow:

First, the technological development of eVTOL requires continuous validation and iterative upgrades. Ever since the launch of cargo aerial vehicles, AutoFlight had competed tens of thousands of transferred flights, accumulated a large quantity of data, ensured the stability and reliability of flights, to set the technical foundation for constructing a safe and reliable manned aerial vehicle.

Second, the policy management for commercial operation for manned eVTOLs will be more strict. Moreover, the low-altitude management reform is being vigorously promoted where it is more supportive for aerial cargo vehicles. Thus, the policy condition would endorse the implementation for aerial cargo vehicles.

Thirdly, the need of aerial vehicles for transporting heavy load materials including value-added products, emergency rescue products and special materials is sizable.

“From product to service” refers to AutoFlight designed and manufactured aerial vehicles, while providing global solutions and supportive services. It will also collaborate with travel companies in various countries and regions. “From China to the world” indicates that eVTOL is an emerging market that needs global cooperation to implement: first of all, research and development for eVTOL require globalized cooperation; second, market-oriented commercialization also requires global coordination; third is due to airworthy certification process and policy differences. Besides collaborating with Civil Aviation Association of China (CAAC), we need to work with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for airworthiness certification in other countries.

Could you provide some information about the manned V1500M that is newly launched by AutoFlight?

AutoFlight’s V1500M adopts a composite wing configuration, with eight electric lift systems to provide lift. It can take off vertically like a helicopter, but then converts to forward-motion after flying to a certain altitude. The tail propulsion systems provide cruising power that can go as fast as a fixed-wing aircraft. This configuration can provide high efficiency, long-haul ability, and simplicity while meeting the redundancy requirements of aviation safety standards.

What is the latest status of test flights and the certification process?

The AutoFlight V1500M has completed multi-rotor flight tests, hover tests and fixed-wing conversion tests.AutoFlight Tech established its European R&D and airworthiness Center in Augsburg, Germany. Mr. Mark R. Henning, former head product manager for the Airbus EC135, joined AutoFlight as General Manager in Europe. The first task for AutoFlight Europe team is to begin the airworthiness certification process in Europe for the autonomous manned aerial vehicle – V1500M, in 2022. The airworthiness certification process in China and the United States is also under way.

What is AutoFlight’s vision for eVTOL operations in the future?

Creating a safe, reliable, comfortable, convenient, quiet, and eco-friendly aerial vehicle is AutoFlight’s top priority. In terms of operations, we will continuously collaborate with travel companies in various countries and regions.