eVTOL startup Volant completes test flight of full-length prototype

It so happened that the test flight went ahead despite severe Covid-19 disruptions, busy military and civil air traffic and also bad weather in Yixing.

Volant (沃兰特), a domestic eVTOL startup, announced yesterday on its official WeChat account that its VE25 X1 prototype had completed the rotary-wing test flight and verification in March this year.

X1 is Volant’s full-length, five-seat eVTOL aircraft, which underwent the two-month-long test at an airport in Yixing, a city of eastern China’s Jiangsu Province.

Test flight is an important way to examine and rate all sorts of work within an aviation company, said Dong Ming, founder and CEO of Shanghai-based Volant.

In the official WeChat post, he credited the team for their dedication and perseverance, as they have worked to overcome challenges and setbacks since the birth of the startup in June 2021.

“Within a little more than a year’s time, we accomplished what usually would have taken five to seven years for foreign rivals to achieve,” said Dong. “And we built and flew the world’s largest and heaviest eVTOL aerial vehicle.”

However, he didn’t specify the dimensions and weight of VE25 X1.

According to Volant’s website, X1 has a distributed power architecture, composed of eight lift systems and two thrust systems, making it possible for these two modes of propulsion to function independently and react to emergencies.

“With the rotary-wing test flight, we’ve verified the results from the previous phase of work,” said Jin Jun, a Volant manager overseeing the test at the airport.

Jin said the test collected 100 gigabytes of flight data on dozens of key metrics, concerning the X1’s hull specs, control system and more.

“We also passed the most stringent test by putting one set of rotary blades out of work,” he noted.

It so happened that the test flight went ahead despite severe Covid-19 disruptions, busy military and civil air traffic and also bad weather in Yixing.

Jin explained that the X1 prototype is not completely water-resistant yet, meaning that the team had to cover the aircraft with tarp when it was parked on tarmac during downpour.

Li Wei is a front-row witness to Volant’s progress in the eVTOL category. A partner at Shunwei Capital, which invested in Volant during the seed round, he believes that it “will lead the segment in the next golden 10 years” thanks to its R&D capabilities, a clear market strategy and high capital efficiency.

Sun Weiguo, general manager of the general aviation division at China Civil Aviation Association, also pledged support for Volant, a member of the association.

“The association will firmly back the development of Volant and the construction of an ecosystem,” he stated. “We believe under the leadership of pioneers like Volant, the eVTOL industry will achieve a breakthrough.”

Volant has secured promised advance purchase orders for 400 units of X1 from seven clients.

In a rare revelation in the WeChat post, the firm admitted that its engineering team identified technical flaws in such aspects as X1’s capacity and manufacturing processes during the test flight.

Nonetheless, these issues will pave a solid foundation for Volant to further revamp its product, conduct fixed-wing test flight and realize “transition.”

Transition is an aviation term that suggests a shift from a vertical to a horizontal motion and is considered one of the most challenging parts of an eVTOL flight.

China’s eVTOL race is already on, with new players and capital flocking into this sector, such as TCab Tech (时的科技), Vertaxi (御风未来), AutoFlight (峰飞科技) and more.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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