The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

China's TCab Tech Completes Initial Flight Testing of E20 eVTOL Aircraft

TCab Tech has concluded its inaugural round of flight testing for the E20 eVTOL, after being awarded a special flight permit and aircraft registration certificate from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in June. The eVTOL aircraft, registered with tail number BO-EEW, underwent hover, transition, and cruise flight phases at Dongyang Hengdian General Airport in Zhejiang Province. According to the Chinese start-up, this was all achieved within just four months of the aircraft’s assembly.

In a press release, TCab Tech founder and CEO Huang Yongwei expressed confidence that the E20 is poised to become China's first domestically certified tiltrotor eVTOL aircraft. On October 27, CAAC accepted its application for a type certificate. Earlier this month, EHang’s EH216-S multicopter autonomous aerial vehicle became the first eVTOL to complete type certification with CAAC, which also marked a world-first.

With the initial ground and flight-testing phase completed, the Shanghai-based startup is now preparing for a flight-testing campaign and increasing investments in research and development to expedite the E20’s airworthiness certification process. TCab Tech also indicated that the design for the five-seat eVTOL is complete.

With a maximum payload of 450 kilograms (992 pounds), the E20 eVTOL claims a maximum range of 200 kilometers (125 miles), a cruise speed of 260 kilometers per hour, and a maximum speed of 320 kilometers per hour. The start-up is targeting type certification from the CAAC in 2025 followed by certification with EASA at a later date.

According to TCab Tech, it has received more than 200 provisional orders for its E20 aircraft, including an agreement for 50 with Asian Express Aviation Group, signed in February. The Chinese media has reported the aircraft is expected to be priced at 7 million yuan (approximately $960,900).

TCab Tech's E20 eVTOL technology demonstrator
TCab Tech aims to achieve the first Chinese type certification with a tiltorotor eVTOL aircraft. (Image: TCab Tech)

French aerospace and defense group Safran supplies the E20 with six of its EngineUs 100 electric motors. The eVTOL features two sets of five-bladed, low-speed tilting propellers positioned at the wingtips, alongside a T-shaped tail section. The E20 is also equipped with two fixed lift rotors situated on a forward-extending beam from the wing, designed to be stowed during cruise flights to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

Thierry Sieg, vice president of sales and marketing at Safran Electrical & Power, who participated in the flight testing, described the maiden flight as a significant milestone for urban air mobility in China. “This will further strengthen Safran Group's market position in the field of electric vertical takeoff and landing in China," he added.

AutoFlight Unveils Firefighting eVTOL Vehicle

In a separate development, AutoFlight unveiled a firefighting version of its Prosperity I eVTOL aircraft at its test site located at Bailian Lake Country Park in Jiangsu province last week. With a maximum take-off weight of 2,000 kilograms (4,200 pounds) and a cruising speed of around 200 kilometers per hour, the autonomous eVTOL is capable of carrying four high-performance fire extinguishing bombs, each weighing 100 kilograms. A single fire extinguishing bomb can cover an area of up to 200 square meters, enabling a single flight to extinguish fires over a total area of 800 square meters, the China-based company said.

Equipped with artificial intelligence recognition technology to pinpoint fire sources, the eVTOL can work in tandem with AutoFlight’s uncrewed aerial vehicle, dubbed the “Great White Shark,” to enhance firefighting capabilities. The search and rescue (SAR) drone features VTOL capabilities, has a payload of 20 kilograms, and can travel up to six hours with the ability to cover distances of over 500 kilometers.

AutoFlight's firefighting eVTOL aircraft
AutoFlight has unveiled a firefighting version of its Prosperity I eVTOL aircraft. (Image: AutoFlight)

At the Smart Civil Aviation Development Forum last week, Li Jingjing, Deputy General Manager of China Aviation Rescue & Emergency, a subsidiary of China Aviation Supplies Holding Company, emphasized that despite significant demand for emergency and SAR aircraft, the country currently possesses fewer than 200 of these aircraft. She added that the domestic aviation rescue market is valued at $13.7 billion.

More Public Funding to Boost China's Advanced Air Mobility Goals 

Under the newly released Green Aviation Manufacturing Development Outline (2023-2035), China appears determined to fast-track the testing of commercial eVTOL technologies by 2025. This includes the development of applications for emergency and SAR aircraft, as well as advancements in hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Meanwhile, the Guangzhou Huangpu People's Government is the latest district to roll out subsidies in a bid to advance low-altitude economic development. The fresh measures include up to $4.1 million for major projects, including a 50 percent subsidy for landing hubs and related infrastructure, a maximum yearly subsidy of $137,000 for security, operations, research and development, and parts, up to 50 percent for flight test sites, and a one-time reward of up to $2 million for enterprises holding a type certificate and production license.

Demonstration projects offering more than 1,000 annual flight services can receive a maximum subsidy of $41 per flight, while projects providing over 10,000 low-altitude cargo flight services annually can receive a maximum subsidy of approximately $12 per flight. The annual subsidy for each project is capped at $630,000.