FutureFlight.aero's Weekly Advanced Air Mobility News Roundup
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FutureFlight.aero's Weekly Advanced Air Mobility News Roundup

Jul 20, 2023

Xpeng’s X2 Flying Car Makes River Crossing in Hunan Province

The fifth generation of the XPeng AeroHT’s flying car concept, the two-seat Xpeng X2, completed its first demonstration flight over the Xiang River at Changsha in Hunan province on August 26. Starting its flight from the river’s left bank, the X2 flew just shy of a mile in four minutes before landing safely at Zhoutou Square.

According to the XPeng AeroHT (which is also known as Xiaopeng Huitian), the demonstration represents China’s first cross-river flight in an eVTOL vehicle. However, EHang has previously flown its EH216-S vehicle over the sea in coastal locations.

Weighing just under 1,500 pounds and constructed mainly from carbon fiber composite materials, the Xpeng X2 features eight propellers driven by eight electric motors in an octocopter configuration, meaning each of its four arms includes a pair of engines and props. With a maximum payload of just 352 pounds, the aircraft can stay airborne for up to 25 minutes, reaching altitudes of 3,280 feet and a flight speed of 80 miles per hour.

XPeng AeroHT said the X2 boasts a multiple redundancy design with four sets of independent batteries and a multi-motor power backup. Fixed-skid type landing gear, a built-in parachute, autopilot, a two-way 4G/5G communication system, radar ranging, and sensing obstacle avoidance are among its many features.

Speaking at the demonstration, company founder and president Zhao Deli said the aircraft has carried out nearly 4,000 test flights in various environments; its five demonstrators have undertaken a combined 15,000 flight tests. The company hopes to achieve mass production of its land and amphibious models in the next two to three years.

In September 2020, Hunan became the first Chinese province to overhaul low-altitude airspace management under a pilot project scheme to advance urban mobility. XPeng AeroHT is now partnering with district officials on a series of studies with the aim of building a flying car test platform tailored to various application scenarios along with integrated flight facilities, coordinated ground and air traffic operations, and low-altitude route planning.

Funding Round Boosts Zero Gravity’s eVTOL Plans

Zero Gravity Aircraft Industry has secured nearly 100 million yuan ($13.7 million) in a funding round to fuel the advancement of its third-generation tiltrotor eVTOL model, the six-seat ZG-T6 demonstrator. The newly obtained funds come in the wake of an angel financing round of almost 100 million yuan in June.

Led by Nanjing Transportation Engineering (Nanjing Jiaogong) with contributions from Hefei Angel Fund and existing shareholder Lanchi Venture Capital, the fresh funds will support the development and mass production of the ZG-T6 along with airworthiness certification for other models and the expansion of low-altitude traffic operation scenarios.

With a gross weight of 5,500 pounds, the ZG-T6 has an anticipated range of 186 miles and a cruise speed of 155 mph and can remain airborne for roughly 90 minutes. The company plans to deploy the aircraft on intercity and urban travel to alleviate traffic congestion between cities.

Zero Gravity's plans to develop the ZG-T6 six-seat, tiltrotor eVTOL aircraft have been backed by a new funding round. (Image: Zero Gravity)

Headquartered at Hefei in Anhui province, Zero Gravity has an eVTOL vehicle lineup that also includes its first-generation, multi-rotor ZG-One—a 1,430-pound, two-person piloted air taxi—and the second-generation, fixed-wing 2,200-pound model, the ZG-VC2. According to Nanjing Jiaogong, Zero Gravity is the first Chinese start-up to simultaneously conduct research and development on multi-rotor, fixed-wing, and tiltrotor eVTOL aircraft.

Designed for tourism, research and development, and emergency rescue, the ZG-One has an estimated cruise speed of approximately 47 mph, a range of 19 miles, and a maximum flight time of 25 minutes. The two-seat ZG-VC2 is designed for logistics, surveying, mapping, and emergency rescue, and features a cruise speed of 123 mph, a range of 93 miles, and a flight endurance of 45 minutes. Plans call for launching piloted operations of the company's three models before transitioning to autonomous flight.

Yufeng Prepares Matrix 1 eVTOL Prototype for Flight Testing

Yufeng Future Flight Technology’s Matrix 1 production-conforming eVTOL prototype will soon enter the flight-testing phase after recently completing a series of ground tests to determine the acceptable means of regulatory compliance for type certification. In a post on social media, the company, which is also known as Vertaxi, confirmed the successful completion of control system load verification, aerodynamic servo stability testing, and vibration testing; the next step is setting a date for its inaugural test flight.

The five-seat, fixed-wing M1 features 20 rotors, including four front pull rotors and 16 hanging rotors, and has a range of 155 miles and a top speed of 124 mph. Following certification, the aircraft will be mainly used for short flights within and between Chinese cities.

According to the General Aviation Industry Research Center of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Yufeng is also inching closer to achieving type certification for its M1 cargo variant and is conducting landing flight tests in various locations.

Porsche Consulting and Pantuo Present eVTOL Market Forecast for China

Porsche Consulting and Shanghai-based eVTOL aircraft developer Pantuo Aviation this week delivered an optimistic, albeit incomplete, forecast of market acceptance among high-net-worth individuals in its “2023 China Vertical Travel Market Outlook Report.” Having analyzed travel patterns and automobile purchasing tendencies in 46 high-income cities (but lacking comprehensive figures), the group anticipates that China’s eVTOL market will experience annual growth of 100 units by 2027 and 500 units by 2030 under "neutral forecast conditions." This estimation positions China's portion of the worldwide eVTOL market at around 25 to 30 percent.

Pantuo is working on a second-generation technology demonstrator of its Pantala Concept H five-passenger eVTOL, the T2. Its inaugural demonstrator, the T1, features a titling ducted fan wing concept, which draws comparisons to Germany’s Lilium. In May, the company took home an iF Design Award in the category of product concepts, beating nearly 1,000 entries from 56 countries.

German automotive group Porsche is involved in some eVTOL aircraft projects, including the provision of design support for Eve Air Mobility.

Chinese Air Safety Regulator Outlines eVTOL Validation Special Conditions

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) unveiled its eVTOL aircraft validation requirements during the Advanced Air Mobility International Conference (AAMIC 2023) held on August 28 and 29 in Ningbo. Among the measures, the regulator confirmed that each project would be individually assessed, with special conditions (SC) for each eVTOL model to determine airworthiness. These conditions mainly refer to the requirements set out in the SC-VTOL, CCAR-23, and CSAR-27 regulations.

Regarding propulsion systems encompassing batteries, a CAAC official said the regulator is working on developing the necessary standards for these components individually with plans to release supplemental type certificates or airworthiness certificates in due course to guide the certification process. The initiative aims to encourage standardization, leading to reduced eVTOL certification costs and accelerating approvals.

On August 4, the Chinese air safety regulator issued a special condition SC-23-17 for the electric propulsion system of the four-seat, all-composite RX4E aircraft being developed by Rhyxeon General Aircraft Co. Last February, the CAAC confirmed the special conditions to be applied for the type certification of EHang’s EH216 autonomous aerial vehicle.

Shenzhen’s Bao’an District Lays Out Plans To Be Advanced Air Mobility Hub

During a recent low-altitude economic investment promotion meeting, the Bao’an district of Shenzhen in China’s Guangdong province rolled out the local government’s inaugural series of support policies. The plan encompasses 10 fresh measures as part of a larger strategy for the district to become a 100-billion-yuan ($13.7 billion) advanced air mobility cluster.

The new policies cover a wide range of support spanning three years, with a focus on incentivizing companies to set up their headquarters, engage in research and development, or establish manufacturing facilities within Bao'an district. Among the rash of measures, eVTOL companies will receive subsidies of up to 30 million yuan; airworthiness certification centers and other institutes are entitled to 10 million yuan to alleviate construction costs.

The subsidy structure allows 100 yuan ($13.70) per person per flight for sightseeing excursions; city flights are eligible for a maximum subsidy of 200 yuan per flight, while intercity flights will be granted a subsidy of 300 yuan per aerial vehicle. Each company's annual subsidy is capped at 10 million yuan.

District officials have also issued subsidies to support small uncrewed aerial vehicles, including five million yuan to cover construction costs, three million yuan for operations, 100,000 yuan annually for intelligent take-off and landing kiosks, and 100,000 yuan for rentals. For medium-sized landing hubs, eVTOL landing sites, and helicopter platforms, companies are entitled to three million yuan in financial assistance plus 500,000 yuan to cover rent. For each enterprise, the amount of subsidy shall not exceed 10 million yuan per year.

Xpeng’s X2 Flying Car Makes River Crossing in Hunan ProvinceFunding Round Boosts Zero Gravity’s eVTOL Plans( Yufeng Prepares Matrix 1 eVTOL Prototype for Flight TestingPorsche Consulting and Pantuo Present eVTOL Market Forecast for ChinaChinese Air Safety Regulator Outlines eVTOL Validation Special ConditionsShenzhen’s Bao’an District Lays Out Plans To Be Advanced Air Mobility Hub