Vertaxi (御风未来), an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) startup, announced on February 22 that it had completed a round of funding in December last year led by Skyview Fund, although the exact amount was not disclosed.
The latest round came within seven months of the previous round in May 2022, when Vertaxi received tens of millions of yuan. The follow-on investment brought the total amount raised to 150 million yuan (US$21.57 million).
It’s unclear why Vertaxi chose to postpone the announcement until two months later.
The money from the latest round will supplement the working capital needed to develop M1, Vertaxi’s 2-ton large-sized eVTOL aircraft, conduct test flights and secure certificates of airworthiness.
The first prototype of M1 has completed the static test and is being assembled, scheduled to roll off the production line in March. Systemic ground tests have also been planned, with the aircraft slated to make its maiden flight in the second quarter of this year.
Vertaxi, with a vision to provide ride-hailing services for all, has set its sights on offering safe, cost-effective and eco-friendly eVTOL aerial vehicles, or flying cars, to complement China’s urban air mobility solutions.
The company has its R&D center, production plant and an airstrip for flight trial in Shanghai and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
Aside from large eVTOL aircraft, Vertaxi also produces smaller, industrial-grade drones under the brand FCourier. FCourier drones are sold to several Middle Eastern countries and widely adopted in security inspection, emergency rescue, geographical mapping and material handling and delivery.
FCourier has been Vertaxi’s cash cow, sustaining its operations with steady income. Besides, the drone business also generated a massive quantity of data to support the iterations of the firm’s self-developed flight control technologies.
Vertaxi’s flying cars adopt a multicopter design, and boasts an independent powertrain system. M1 has 16 rotary blades used for vertical take-off and landing and another four for cruising, making it the world’s first eVTOL aircraft with the most rotors.
According to Vertaxi, the multicopter architecture has benefits such as a less complicated mechanism, lower maintenance costs, higher safety levels and fewer obstacles to airworthiness. All these features make it the most hopeful among dozens of domestic eVTOL candidates to be commercialized and land the airworthiness certification.
In terms of supply chain management, Vertaxi sources all its components from domestic suppliers, even getting deeply involved in their R&D work so as to achieve greater design freedom, more stable performance and lower costs, said a company statement.
The company appears to be carefully weighing what steps to take on the way to commercializing its technologies. Currently it prioritizes suburban markets over cities, and chose to venture into logistics before launching crewed flight services.
Its large eVTOL prototype M1, after being halved in size, has already won a number of deals, tasked with delivering packages in the inclement weather of the Himalayan region.
“New tech products are sure to prosper as long as they truly understand the user’s needs and generate customer value, just like the new energy vehicle and drone industries 10 years ago,” said Xie Ling, founder and CEO of Vertaxi. “We’ll work hard with fellow eVTOL practitioners to propel the boom and growth of China’s eVTOL-driven new air mobility market.”
“With the development of the distributed electric propulsion system and power batteries, and amid surging needs for easier transportation in densely populated Asian cities, China’s aviation industry will enjoy investment opportunities the size of an entire ecosystem,” said Cong Zhen, managing partner of Skyview Fund, a lead investor in Vertaxi’s latest fundraising. “eVTOL as an emerging player will have the chance to lead changes across the entire airspace.”