AutoFlight today released a video showing its Prosperity 1 eVTOL breaking a competitor’s distance record. The four-seat, Gen4 air taxi traveled 250.64 kilometers, or 155.74 miles, on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries, narrowly beating Joby Aviation’s 2021 record of 248 kilometers, or 154.1 miles. Both records are for the longest fully electric aircraft flights that included taking off and landing vertically. Prosperity 1 did 20 loops around a track near its Chinese manufacturing facility.
“The important thing is not that we beat a competitor’s record, but that we were the second company to fly this distance,” Omer Bar-Yohay, AutoFlight president, told Robb Report. “We have proven that building a safe aircraft and battery will allow you to fly a feasible mission. It’s proof that it’s not too far.”
The eVTOL sector is quickly coming online with successful test flights by Joby, Lilium, Archer, Vertical Aerospace and others. AutoFlight’s announcement today was surprise news given that the company, founded in 2017, has not courted publicity like the others, which are publicly traded. “We’re the company you’ve never heard of,” said Bar-Yohay. “In some ways, that was by design. We’re privately owned and weren’t part of the publicly traded stack, so we didn’t need a visible funding perspective.”
The company considers itself transnational, with manufacturing in China, commercial operations in the US, and engineering in Germany. Frank Stephenson, who has designed automobiles for Ferrari, Maserati, McLaren and Mini, penned Prosperity 1. “We have a very strong team of designers and engineers in Augsburg, Germany,” said Bar-Yohay. “They will guide us through our certification with EASA.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency is equivalent to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Bar-Yohay said the company has targeted EASA airworthiness certification for 2025, but says that “there are a lot of moving parts,” so the date might move. “Will it slide to 2026?” he says. “Maybe. But it definitely won’t slide to 2030.”
Every eVTOL manufacturer, Bar-Yohay adds, will need to have three elements to make its aircraft successful. “Safety first through redundancy and simple design,” he says. “Then you need for it to be quiet. Ours measures only 65 dBa at 300 feet. It also has to be cost-effective—comparable to a light helicopter. I think we could have the silver bullet that opens the market.”
But, he quickly adds, “we’re not there yet.” Testing will continue as the design and manufacturing teams progress towards newer iterations of Prosperity 1. The first certified vehicle will be used for cargo transport, with passenger services following.
Prosperity 1’s record run was remotely piloted, but future versions will have human pilots. “This record helps us push back on the skeptics who said it can’t be done,” said Bar-Yohay. “Now, our strategic objective is to mature the project to a conforming prototype, a final configuration that will let us go to market.”