Volant Aerotech deploys the VE25 eVTOL demonstrator


Volant Aerotech has unveiled a full-scale technology demonstrator of the VE25 four-passenger eVTOL aircraft, for which it aims to achieve type certification in 2026. The Chinese company has deployed the first full-scale example of the lift design and cruise on September 2 at an airfield in Yixin, a city near Shanghai.

To expedite the system development process, Volant’s engineering team also built a large-scale aircraft integration platform, which the team calls a frame aircraft consisting of the main components and first systems. Last week, this frame aircraft took off for the first time.

Early design drawings show eight sets of rotors installed alongside a fixed wing and a pair of pusher propellers on the tail. The cockpit includes an unspecified avionics suite.

Prospects for commercial support for the aircraft have been bolstered in recent weeks by the signing of memorandums of understanding with China Southern Airlines General Aviation (CSAGA) and Shanghai New Sky Helicopter. The manufacturer, which was founded in June 2021, expects the plane to be flown by a pilot in accordance with current air transport regulations on routes of up to 200 km (125 miles).

The August 8 agreement with the helicopter charter division of Asia’s largest airline, China Southern, calls on the companies to collaborate on the development of the VE25 aircraft, as well as the preparation of a business model for eVTOL services and raising capital. CSAGA is a leading rotorcraft service provider active in sectors such as the energy industry and holds major Chinese aviation safety approvals including Part 91, Part 135, Part 147 and Part 61 certificates.

Shanghai New Sky describes itself as a VVIP charter operator and is expected to operate on-demand services. It currently operates rotorcraft such as the twin-engine Bell 429.

Volant Founder and CEO Ming Dong said FutureFlight several service models are being discussed, including passenger shuttle flights on routes around the greater Beijing area and the Yangtze Delta around Shanghai, with potentially 20 to 30 aircraft deployed on each route.

The deployment of the full-scale demonstrator marks the start of the ground test phase, which will prepare the aircraft for the first flight and the following flight tests, which should begin from the end of 2022.

The majority of Volant’s 50 team members, including Ming, have extensive experience in the aerospace industry, with Ming having held several technical positions with Aviation Industries of China (AVIC), General Electric (GE) and Rockwell Collins, and having been involved in programs such as the ARJ21 regional airliner, the C919 and CR929 programs. Ming has a good understanding of not only the regulatory process in China, but also that of agencies, including the FAA. His colleagues have extensive experience in companies such as COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China), Airbus and Honeywell.

“We aim to produce a global product, and the only question is when and how will we get there,” Ming explained. “We have several models under consideration, and they could take different paths [to market]. We will not be isolated in a single market.

Unlike several high-profile eVTOL start-ups, including Chinese company EHang, Volant appears to be taking a relatively patient and conservative approach to getting its aircraft into commercial service. Ming is confident that it could be another 10 to 15 years before autonomous operations are accepted by aviation safety regulators for commercial passenger operations.

“Type certification is not an easy task,” he said. “We have a lot of people who have a good knowledge and experience of two new air transport aircraft [AVIC’s ARJ21 and COMAC’s C919]but eVTOLs are a new type of aircraft.

Volant intends to work with an international supply chain and says it is already working with several unannounced European and US companies.

Having already closed two rounds of funding and facing tough conditions in capital markets, Ming said the startup plans to go public through an initial public offering “at the right time.”

In June 2022, Volant said it had raised “hundreds of millions of yuan” in a pre-Series A funding round. This was led by investor groups including Future Capital, Qingsong Fund, Welight Capital and Shunwei Capital.


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