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Flying taxi test flight in China cuts journey time by nearly 90%

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Wed 27 Mar 2024

Chinese firm AutoFlight claims it completed “the world’s first inter-city electric air-taxi” flight last month between the southern Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai.

The five-seater Prosperity aircraft took around 20 minutes to complete the 50km route across the Pearl River Delta, which would take around three hours by car. It used one of 100 flightpaths that have been set out by the local government for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. 

Prosperity’s vertical take-off capabilities eliminated the need for a runway although wings were utilised to preserve energy during cruising.

While the demonstration was uncrewed and fully autonomous, the firm believes it will get certification for crewed passenger flights within the next couple of years. 

According to AutoFlight, the achievement marks the world’s first public flight of an eVTOL aircraft on a cross-sea and inter-city route.

The route between Shenzhen and Zhuhai is part of the future air traffic scenario planned by the regional government as it develops its ‘low-altitude economy’ strategy that will see the opening of thousands of vertiports and hundreds of eVTOL airs routes across the Greater Bay Area in southern China. 

Low-altitude application scenarios include passenger transport, tourism, logistics and emergency services. In the short term, plans are in development to achieve 300,000 cargo drone flights in this region per year.

AutoFlight CEO Tian Yu said: “Working closely together with the local authorities and partners here, and in other jurisdictions around the world, we will continue to drive this revolution to bring safe, efficient, sustainable and affordable eVTOL flight options to cities around the world.”

The firm recently signed a deal with aviation company Heli-Eastern to purchase 100 Prosperity aircraft to be used on similar routes.

Earlier this month, the UK’s first vertiport testbed for developing next-generation eVTOLs was launched at a 444-acre estate in Oxfordshire.

In January, the Civil Aviation Authority launched a consultation into vertiport design at existing aerodromes, paving the way for eVTOL aircraft operators in the UK.

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