Vertaxi (御风未来), an eVTOL startup, yesterday completed the assembly of its first 2-ton aircraft at its Shanghai plant, with the aerial vehicle rolling off the production line.
This development is the latest in a series of moves suggesting the firm is one step closer toward commercializing its technology.
As urban low-altitude airspace steadily opens up for traffic, eVTOL has become a prized solution to urban congestion, thanks to its smaller carbon footprint, relatively low noise, high safety levels and less stringent requirements for a spot to take off from and land at.
Vertaxi is among a number of players that have ridden the waves of an eVTOL mania and its potential role in a comprehensive urban air mobility (UAM) system.
The aircraft, codenamed M1 and emblazoned in black and white, has a wingspan of 15m. With a body length of 10m and height of 3m, the “flying car” adopts a gull-wing door design.
Its interior space measures 3.5 cubic meters, enough to carry 32 post boxes with a dimension of 530*290*370mm.
The eVTOL device has a capacity of 500kg and can be used for the transportation of cargo or passengers.
“Since we launched M1 for the first time in September last year, we have pulled out all stops to get the first eVTOL aircraft off the production line,” said Xie Ling, founder and CEO of Vertaxi. “Now we have accomplished this phased goal on time.”
After the main structure of M1 is assembled, Vertaxi also has finalized the manufacturing and assembling of most electric wires, equipment and systems, according to its chief architect Dr. Liu Shiyi.
He added that M1’s assembly marked the beginning of a new phase, where Vertaxi will go into overdrive to test the product, ahead of its maiden flight.
Shanghai, where Vertaxi has built and run an assembly line in the city’s suburban Jinshan, is at the forefront of a nationwide drive to develop UAM industry clusters, such as in Pudong, Yangpu, Minhang, Jinshan, Songjiang, Qingpu and Chongming districts.
According to an action plan released by the municipal government, the city will promote efforts to explore manned eVTOL technologies, in a move to diversify from tilt-rotor aircraft or compound wing architecture and other smart aviation solutions.
Provision of “aerial taxi” rides to commuters will not be a distant dream in the future, says the plan.
Drawing on policy support and a funding craze, Vertaxi has decided on a plan to serve suburbs before city centers and to transport freight before people. The firm has set its sights on a foray into cargo logistics in the near term.
After it acquires the airworthiness certificate needed for operating freight delivery, it will enter the air taxi space and eventually become a UAM provider.
According to Vertaxi, M1 will conduct unmanned freight-carrying tasks after it lands the proper license, partly to accumulate data in advance of the crewed flight, partly to prove its business model.