The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

China's AutoFlight Establishes European Subsidiary To Advance eVTOL Plans

Chinese eVTOL aircraft developer AutoFlight is establishing a European subsidiary to advance plans to achieve EASA type certification for its planned Prosperity I four-seater vehicle. The group’s new AutoFlight Europe operation is in Augsburg in southern Germany and is being led by former Airbus executive Mark Henning.

The Shanghai-based manufacturer is recruiting engineers for the research and development and certification center in Augsburg. It aims to have the aircraft—which will carry three passengers and a pilot on flights of up to around 155 miles—ready to start air taxi operations by 2025.

Last year, AutoFlight raised $100 million through a Series A investment round led by European technology investor Lukasz Gadowski and his Germany-based company, Team Global. In October 2021, it reported a first flight for a proof-of-concept version of the passenger-carrying eVTOL aircraft that it then called the V1500M.

The Chinese company is also developing smaller cargo-only, fully autonomous vehicles, including the V400 Albatross with a 220-pound payload and 130-mile range, and the V50 with a 44-pound payload and a range of up to 311 miles. In July 2021, the Civil Aviation Administration of China accepted AutoFlight’s application to certify the V400. In 2019 it unveiled a design for what appeared to be a two-seat V600 model that now seems to have been replaced by the larger eVTOL, which has now been rebranded as Prosperity I.

According to Autoflight, it has already logged more than 10,000 flights with these smaller autonomous drones. It said it expects to demonstrate the lift and cruise Prosperity I vehicle in “transition tests in a few weeks”—presumably a reference to flights involving a transition from hover to cruise phases.

Henning has spent the past 26 years with the Airbus group and served as a program manager with Airbus Helicopters for the past 19 years, with responsibility for products such as the EC135 rotorcraft. Earlier in his career, he worked for Augsburg-based Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA), which subsequently became part of the EADS group that includes Airbus.

“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,” Henning commented. “What I really like about AutoFlight and Prosperity I is the underlying simple concept. Simplicity translates into safety and efficiency.”

AutoFlight already has a composite materials manufacturing plant at Jining in China’s Shandong province. It has been conducting research into flight-control systems in Germany for some time, and its plans now appear to call for the new eVTOL model to be assembled in the country as well.

China-based EHang also has ambitions to certify its EH216 and VT-30 eVTOL aircraft in Europe. Meanwhile, Aerofugia, which is part of Chinese automotive group Geely, is working to bring Terrafugia's Transition flying car to market and also has a partnership with German eVTOL developer Volocopter.