According to AutoFlight, the manufacturer of Prosperity, the most important and problematic phase of the prospective air taxi’s operation is the switch between the propellers that lift it into the air and those that provide the vehicle with forward propulsion. In the latest test, Prosperity successfully cleared the hurdle.
The latest eVTOL from air taxi manufacturer AutoFlight, the Prosperity I is a concept vehicle designed to demonstrate the company’s proprietary technologies, and its immediate predecessor, the V1500M, only took to the skies for the first time last October. The V1500M is an air taxi with a range of 250 kilometres, capable of carrying four passengers at a time, and is scheduled to start carrying passengers between cities in China in 2024, once the relevant permits have been obtained. The Prosperity I, based on it, will be piloted and carry three passengers, unlike the company’s previous drones, and will be launched in Europe this year, with the European licensing process expected to be green-lighted for service on the mainland around 2025.
The eVTOL’s operating principle is based on a simple concept, says Mark Henning, AutoFlight’s newly appointed European Managing Director, and it is this simplicity that gives the vehicle its safety and efficiency. The key is that lift off the ground is provided by the top propellers, of which there are eight on the eVTOL, and then, once the vehicle has reached cruising altitude, the propellers stop and lock, after which the two propellers at the rear take over the propulsion task.
This process is what the company calls the “lift and cruise” configuration and first demonstrated its operation to the public in January, and now it has been demonstrated up close during a short test flight of Prosperity I.
The vehicle climbed to an altitude of 150 metres and, after switching to cruise mode, reached a maximum speed of 198 km/h. The final speed at which eVTOL will operate the air taxi service is planned to be around 200 km/h, which is lower than some other manufacturers’ targets, but AutoFlight is committed to operating as safely as possible.
Reliability of eVTOLs is guaranteed by thorough preparation processes, but they can be subject to unexpected accidents, with California-based Joby Aviation, which plans to complete the FAA certification process by 2023 and launch service in 2024, crashing one of its aircraft on Wednesday while testing the vehicle on a runway far from a populated area, according to a report from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). According to New Atlas, flight data suggests that the plane was occasionally accelerating to speeds of up to 435 km/h while manoeuvring, but the extreme speeds, which are not used on a daily basis, are part of the tests, as they are used to test the ultimate limits of the eVTOLs’ capabilities. The NTBS has launched an investigation into the circumstances of the accident, in which no-one was injured except the aircraft. The maximum speed of Joby Aviation’s future air taxi was originally planned to be faster than that of the AutoFlight vehicle, 322 km/h.