Chinese electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle company AutoFlight is accelerating development of its Prosperity I air taxi by establishing its first unit in Europe, which will oversee efforts to obtain the craft’s European Union certification.
Shanghai-based AutoFlight announced a series of interconnected moves as part of the company’s push to obtain EU certification of Prosperity I in time for the launch of passenger service slated for 2025. Central to that effort is the creation of AutoFlight’s dedicated research and development and certification center, which will be housed at the airport in the German city of Augsburg. Testing and demonstration flights of Prosperity I will be conducted at that facility before others are added as the process advances.
Prosperity I is the first piloted passenger eVTOL vehicle developed by AutoFlight, which had previously produced autonomous uncrewed cargo drones, and one autonomous passenger craft. Planned for air taxi service in Europe and around the world, the eVTOL plane will carry up to three passengers and a pilot, and have a maximum range of around 250 kilometers. AutoFlight expects the certification program orchestrated out of Augsburg to begin sometime this year.
January 27 Update
Moving quickly to get the longer march towards certification going, AutoFlight this week released a proof-of-concept video featuring a full version of Prosperity I.
The footage includes shots of the craft’s final design in action, as well as serving as background for company co-founder and CEO Tian Yu as he describes his ambitions for producing and marketing the eVTOL, and its role in transforming mobility as an alternative to current, carbon-emitting aircraft.
Leading that unit is Mark R. Henning, a former Airbus executive and 26-year aviation industry veteran who was tapped this month as managing director of the new AutoFlight Europe structure.
Henning previously worked for the company currently called DaimlerChrysler Aerospace Aktiengesellschaft, as well as European Aeronautic Defence and Space and Eurocopter. He has also held jobs for Airbus in in Indonesia, South Korea, Israel, South Africa, and the United States. AutoFlight is relying on Henning to use that experience to successfully oversee the development and testing of Prosperity I to take it through full EU certification within three years.
“We are bringing aircraft construction back to Augsburg, creating a high-tech location and jobs as we build drones and create a completely new market segment for air taxis,” said Henning of the AutoFlight eVTOL’s new European home. “What I really like about AutoFlight and Prosperity I is the underlying simple concept. Simplicity translates into safety and efficiency.”
Indeed, AutoFlight hails the “low technical complexity” of the craft as a key to it being safe and more affordable than other future eVTOL air taxi vehicles.
The plane is crucial to the company’s shift from its previous focus on autonomous cargo UAVs – including large payload versions – toward piloted passenger craft. That effort was aided by a $100 million investment AutoFlight received in 2021 from Berlin-based European tech company, Team Global. AutoFlight says its craft have completed over 10,000 takeoffs and landings in fair and foul weather conditions alike, and plans to showcase steps in the testing progress of Prosperity I in coming months.
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