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World's First Intercity Air Taxi Flight Travels From Shenzhen to Zhuhai, Operated by AutoFlight

World's First Intercity Air Taxi Flight Travels From Shenzhen to Zhuhai, Operated by AutoFlight

BY GEORGE MWANGI Published on February 28, 2024 3 COMMENTS

German-Chinese electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) startup AutoFlight completed the world's first electric air taxi demonstration flight between two cities. The flight went from Shenzhen to Zhuhai in China's Guangdong province on February 27. 

 

AutoFlight used its Prosperity eVTOL for the demonstration flight | Photo: AutoFlight

 

The Flight

 

AutoFlight's Prosperity eVTOL, which can accommodate one pilot and four passengers, was used for this historic flight. Traveling 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Shenzhen to Zhuhai can take up to three hours by car since the Pearl River Delta separates the two cities. The flight rapidly reduced the travel time between both cities by completing the journey from Shekou Ferry Port in Shenzhen to the Jiuzhou Ferry Port in Zhuhai in only 20 minutes. This operation was the world's first use of an eVTOL to fly between two cities and across a large body of water. 

 



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Although this flight was fully autonomous, pilots must operate flights for Prosperity to receive certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). Prosperity can transport people between destinations while keeping affordability, passenger comfort, safety, and noise reduction in mind. The eVTOL can travel up to 250 kilometers (155 miles) at a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour) and has a 350-kilogram (772-pound) payload. Prosperity was designed by Frank Stephenson, a famous designer who had previously created car designs for multiple automotive companies. 

 

AutoFlight eVTOLs taking off | Photo: AutoFlight

 

Tian Yu, AutoFlight's Founder, CEO, and Co-Chairman, said about the flight:

 

"We are thrilled to showcase AutoFlight's cutting-edge capabilities today in the world's first cross-sea and inter-city eVTOL demonstration flight. Working closely together with the local authorities and partners here, and in other jurisdictions around the world, we will continue to drive this revolution to bring safe, efficient, sustainable and affordable eVTOL flight options to cities around the world."

 

Prosperity's ability to fly over the Pearl River allows passengers to take a more direct route when traveling between Shenzhen and Zhuhai. Driving between the two cities requires going across a longer distance since the Pearl River is too wide to construct a bridge. Shenzhen and Zhuhai are located where the Pearl River meets the South China Sea. Although passengers can drive through Hong Kong and take the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge across the Pearl River estuary, this can be challenging for many travelers.

 

Prosperity in the air | Photo: AutoFlight

 

The Greater Bay Area

 

AutoFlight views this flight as a major milestone in developing Prosperity and getting the aircraft certified by CAAC. Guangdong's regional government views advanced air mobility (AAM) as essential for further developing the province's economy. The province has outlined the introduction of thousands of vertiports and hundreds of eVTOL routes across the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in the coming years. The region's "low-altitude economy" will include using AAM for tourism, logistics, and emergency services. 

 



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The GBA is one of China's most important regions due to its large technology sector, with many people referring to it as the Silicon Valley of China. The region is home to over 86 million people across Hong Kong, Macau, and nine cities in mainland China. The GBA's large population means a strong demand for flights transporting passengers and cargo across the region. AutoFlight has acknowledged this fact and plans to operate 300,000 annual eVTOL cargo flights in the short term.

 

Inside an AutoFlight eVTOL | Photo: AutoFlight

 

There are some of the cities in the GBA and their economies:

 

  • Guangzhou: The capital and largest city of Guangdong province. It is the main manufacturing center of the Pearl River Delta and a hub for international trade. 
  • Hong Kong: The Special Administrative Region is famous for being one of the world's most influential financial centers alongside cities like New York and London. Hong Kong is also a center for international trade and a major tourist destination
  • Shenzhen: The city is a domestic leader in technology, financial services, and international trade. Shenzhen is home to China's most prominent tech companies, such as Huawei and Tencent. It regularly ranks among the world's top 15 financial centers, while the Port of Shenzhen is the world's fourth busiest container port.

 

The GBA is an effective location for AutoFlight to establish operations due to its strong aviation infrastructure. The region has five main airports: Hong Kong (HKG), Guangzhou (CAN), Shenzhen (SZX), Zhuhai (ZUH), and Macau (MFM). Airlines based in the GBA include Cathay Pacific and China Southern Airlines, with both carriers offering nonstop flights to destinations across multiple continents from Hong Kong and Guangzhou, respectively.

 

AutoFlight created a modified version of its CarryAll eVTOL for firefighting operations | Photo: AutoFlight

 

AutoFlight's Other Plans

 

Heli-Eastern, a general aviation and helicopter service provider, recently purchased 100 Prosperity eVTOLs from AutoFlight. The aircraft will used on routes across the GBA, including those from Shenzhen to Zhuhai. AutoFlight is also developing CarryAll, an autonomous eVTOL for cargo operations. The company plans to receive CAAC certification for CarryAll before acquiring regulatory approval for Prosperity. 

 



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George Mwangi
Aviation writer based in Washington, DC. Visited 21 countries on thousands of miles of flights.

Comments (3)

Steven Bukosky Such quadracopters are great for everything but hauling people, IMO. If it doesn't glide or auto rotate in a loss of power, I don't think I want to be in it for other than much beyond ground effect.
137d ago • Reply
True HK Patriot How about some more technical details and less communist propaganda?
138d ago • Reply
Tom Feelin lucky kid??
138d ago • Reply

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