Two new eVTOL projects emerge from China
eHang certainly won't be alone in the skies when China's eVTOL air taxi market opens up. Two new projects have just been announced: the Autoflight V1500M, and the Pantuo Pantala – which frankly should be expecting a letter from Lilium's lawyers.
Shanghai company Autoflight has been making heavy-lift logistics drones since 2017, and announced it was working on an air taxi last year. Here it is; unveiled at the China Airshow in Zhuhai, the V1500M is a spindly-looking lift-and-cruise design designed to carry three-to-four passengers.
The cabin sits beneath a 12.8-m (42-ft)-wide main wing. A third of the way along each wing, there's a beam that extends longitudinally. At the back of these beams are a pair of pusher props for horizontal flight. The front ends of the beams appear to be joined by another lift surface, which will aid in efficient forward flight.
For VTOL operations, there are eight lift props along the tops of the beams, with the third pair extended upwards on their own nacelles, presumably to keep the aircraft a little more compact. Autoflight says it'll cruise at a fairly relaxed 200 km/h (124 mph), and promises a solid range of 250 km (155 miles) with all seats filled.
The company presented a prototype in Zhuhai, and says it expects to start flight testing "in the near future." Certification is targeted for 2024, and it's unclear whether Autoflight will build these solely for the Chinese domestic market or aim to certify with the FAA and EASA as well.
And secondly, there's the gorgeous Pantuo Pantala Concept H, which looks for all the world like it could've been designed by Aston Martin. Or Lilium – the visual resemblance is impossible to miss.
Like the Lilium Jet, the Pantala's sleek cabin is supported by a large, wide wing at the rear and a shorter canard at the front. Like the Lilium jet, it runs a lot of small ducted fans, arranged in banks along the wings – although these fans look much larger than Lilium's, and where Lilium vectors thrust by tilting the propulsion banks and leaving the wings in place, the Pantala tilts the entire wings for VTOL operations.
We have no specs on performance, no information on how many seats it runs, and no idea what stage Pantuo Aviation is at as a company or what the plans are here. Indeed, all we've got to go by is the render video below. For all we know, this could just as easily be a university design project as a new eVTOL startup.
Still, it sure is a pretty thing, with that Manta-sleek cabin and saucy LED lighting along the wings. But any cool points there have to go to the original design, and we'll be interested to see if Lilium decides to throw down on this one if it comes to fruition. Check out the video below.