Chinese eVTOL aircraft developer AutoFlight says it has raised a further $100 million through a Series A investment round. The company, which so far has been primarily focused on bringing cargo-carrying vehicles to market, received most of the fresh backing from European technology investor Lukasz Gadowski and his company, Team Global.
In a November 22 announcement, the Shanghai-based AutoFlight reported that in October it achieved the first flight with its V1500M proof-of-concept passenger aircraft. It said it is now stepping up certification work in China, with plans to also seek EASA approval.
The company aims to have the all-electric vehicle certified in 2024 and claims to have logged more than 10,000 flights with various iterations of its lift-and-cruise designs. It said that it is developing the flight control system in-house, but declined to provide any further details about this or other key aircraft systems.
“We are very proud and excited to partner with such an amazing company as AutoFlight, its fantastic team, and its founder, Tian Yu,” said Gadowski. “The world doesn’t need to build more roads; it needs to preserve resources and nature. Autonomous air mobility is an emerging industry ready to grow, and I am convinced that AutoFlight will be one of its big players.”
The V1500M will be AutoFlight’s largest eVTOL vehicle to date, with a maximum takeoff weight of 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) and a range of just over 250 km (156 miles). The company has released few details about the V1500M's propulsion system and flight controls.
AutoFlight is also developing smaller cargo-only, fully autonomous vehicles, including the V400 Albatross with a 100-kg payload and 210-km range, and the V50 with a 20-kg payload and a range of up to 500 km. In July, 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 In 2019 it unveiled a design for what appeared to be a two-seat V600 model that now seems to have been replaced by the larger V1500M.
Berlin-based Team Global has taken stakes in around a dozen aviation start-ups, including those involved in developing drones and flight-control technology. The finance group says it is prioritizing investments in sustainable aviation and is looking to back leading contenders in each region of the world. Reportedly, Gadowski has also invested in other advanced air mobility start-ups including Volocopter, Archer, and ZeroAvia.
According to AutoFlight, it already has a 2.3-million-square-foot manufacturing facility at Dinfeng in China. The company employs around 300 people and plans to double the payroll within 12 months.
It faces domestic competition in China from rival eVTOL aircraft developer EHang, which claims to be close to bringing its two-seat EHang 216 into production and also has plans for a longer-range model.