We hear a lot of chatter about human-carrying drones — but it’s rare we actually see them in action. Hence it was a treat when eVTOL pioneer AutoFlight releases new full scale, proof-of-concept, full test flight video for what it’s called Prosperity I, an air taxi that takes off vertically like a helicopter, but also operates like an airplane in flight.
The air taxi in theory would fly between cities and airports, connecting travelers to their final destination past the airport. Or, it might connect two nearby cities or trips to the countryside, allowing travelers who might otherwise drive to avoid traffic on the ground.
While Drone Girl typically doesn’t report on far-fetched proof of concepts, AutoFlight is fairly unique, and creates cause for an exception. The company is a fairly new player in the drone industry, using artificial intelligence, autonomous driving, 5G, and breakthrough materials to drive developments in the eVTOL industry. AutoFlight is based in Shanghai, but recently established European offices in Augsburg, Germany and also recently appointed former Airbus program manager and 26-year aviation industry veteran Mark Henning as its Managing Director.
AutoFlight is backed by European tech holding company Team Global. And while AutoFlight has a diversified eVTOL product mix, it’s focusing on large-scale logistics aircraft and autonomous passenger aerial vehicles.
The roughly 8-minute long video was posted to the AutoFlight YouTube channel this month, marking the company’s second full scale proof-of-concept video for its air taxi Prosperity I. (The company dropped its first proof-of-concept video a few months back.
Watch the latest AutoFlight video below:
These videos don’t necessarily promise to be anything like the final product, but they show the company’s progress as it continues to get closer to what one day might be pilotless taxi service in the air.
Compared to that first video, this version shows a modified, more efficient design that includes upgraded lift & cruise configuration, optimized lifting propellers and enhanced hover and cruising efficiency.
“New optimized lifting propellers allow for a higher hover efficiency, while the two pushing propellers that were previously on either side of the air taxi have been replaced with one center propeller with twin motors to enhance cruising abilities,” according to a statement from AutoFlight. “This most recent design of Prosperity I is very close to the final design which will be released later this year.”
Autoflight says it expects to unveil the final design of its Prosperity I sometime in the third quarter of 2022. From there, Autoflight says it expects to be ready for commercial flight in 2026 (though there are many factors out of Autoflight’s control that also have to happen in order to make this a realistic goal, including better air traffic control regulations and progress around BVLOS drone flights).
Autoflight says it anticipates being able to fly at cruising speeds of 200 kph (125 miles per hour) across a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles). It says it will be able to carry up to four passengers.
And when its service launches, AutoFlight says it expects regular people will be able to take it — not just those with private jets. AutoFlight says it expects pricing will be roughly similar to a standard car taxi ride.