An AutoFlight eVTOL is on display at a company facility in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, in August. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
AutoFlight, an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer, announced on Thursday that it accomplished the world's longest eVTOL flight ever with a distance of 250.3 kilometers on a single charge of the aircraft's lithium-ion batteries.
The flight, which took place at AutoFlight's eVTOL testing facility in Jining, Shandong province, on Feb 23, consisted of 20 circuits on a predetermined flight path, with the plane remotely piloted from the ground by AutoFlight's flight test team, the company said in a news release.
The flight was recognized as the longest fully electric aircraft flight in history, where the aircraft both takes off and lands vertically. The previous longest flight for an eVTOL was 248.8 km set by Joby Aviation, another eVTOL company based in California, the United States, in 2021.
AutoFlight said this long-range test flight is a key milestone in the development of its Prosperity I aircraft, as it undergoes continued testing toward the company's goal of airworthiness certification in 2025 with the European Aviation Safety Agency.
"This flight is a remarkable achievement that shows our aircraft's capability, and we are excited to continue working toward our next goals all the way to EASA certification in 2025," said AutoFlight President Omer Bar-Yohay.
Conveyances classified as eVTOL, which require no fixed facilities such as airports and runways, are widely considered the future of transportation. Compared with helicopters, they are quieter, more environmentally friendly and more affordable, and are expected to be widely used in air travel within cities and intercity travel scenarios in urban areas.
Safe and reliable, eVTOL technology is also considered to be an important solution to solve ground traffic congestion, reducing hours stuck in traffic jams during peak hours.
Around the world, all kinds of eVTOL are being developed including cargo carriers, air ambulances and fleets of air taxis, some with pilots, some without.
AutoFlight is one of the few eVTOL developers to have mastered the challenging transition phase from vertical to horizontal flight.
Its Prosperity aircraft uses rotors to lift the aircraft vertically for takeoff, then transitions to horizontal flight on the wing like a traditional airplane. AutoFlight built and flew its first proof-of-concept aircraft in Shanghai at the end of 2021.
The aircraft used in this record-setting flight was AutoFlight's newest Generation 4 model, which involved legendary designer Frank Stephenson, whose vehicle design portfolio also includes iconic successes from brands including Ferrari, Maserati, McLaren and Mini.
The aircraft, which has a capacity to carry four passengers in addition to a pilot, is capable of speeds of over 200 kilometers per hour, with ranges greater than 250 km.