Autoflight Aviation Technology introduced the latest member of its family of autonomous eVTOL aircraft, the V400 Albatross, on September 13 at the World UAV Conference in Shenzhen, China. The Chinese company is starting with cargo-carrying unmanned aircraft for logistics operations but has already committed to developing larger eVTOL models for passenger services.
The V400 will offer a payload of 100 kg (220 pounds) and be available with all-electric propulsion, for which the maximum range will be 300 km (186 miles), rising to 1,000 km for a hybrid electric version. Shanghai-based Autoflight says that it intends to start test flying the V400 by the end of 2020 and that it has already begun taking orders for the aircraft. In addition to light freight deliveries, the company envisages the model being used for applications such as disaster relief and media support.
The new design features six sets of propellers, with three positioned on each of two parallel beams that connect the V400’s fixed wing to its canard. The all-composite aircraft has two additional tail-mounted propellers. The propulsion system for the all-electric version is based on two motors working in a push-pull configuration, while the hybrid model has a combustion engine at the rear.
Autoflight says that it has developed its own flight-control system, incorporating sense and avoid sensors and radar. The aircraft also has an integrated 4G/5G mobile network to support multi-channel communications. A whole aircraft parachute will be an optional safety feature.
The company has not yet published a proposed timeline for achieving type certification of the V400. However, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has already granted flight permits and approvals for trial logistical operations to other eVTOL developers such as EHang.
Autoflight presented a prototype of the two-seat V600 eVTOL model at the Aero Expo show in Germany in April 2019. Then last November, it announced plans for a larger unmanned V1000 cargo drone at the e-Flight Forum in China. The company has research and development facilities in Shenzhen and in Munich, Germany
Electric aviation entrepreneur Tian Yu founded Autoflight in 2016 and has been working on new designs for more than a decade. He previously founded consumer drone manufacturer Yuneec.
Tian’s earlier projects include the E340 two-seat electric ultralight, which first flew in June 2009 and was certified in November 2017 by German sports aviation agency DULV. Other designs being developed by Autoflight include the V50 White Shark electric drone, which achieved a flight lasting more than six hours on May 19, 2020, and the F240 firefighting multicopter, which can carry 100 kg (220 pounds) of flame-retardant materials.