On October 18, Geely announced that its flying car subsidiary Aerofugia had obtained the training qualification certificate from China’s Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) for its tiltrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and became the first training qualification authorization unit of this type of drones in China. Aerofugia and Volocopter, a German aircraft manufacturer, will jointly promote the bilateral airworthiness certification of their products in the future.
As one of the earliest entrants into the field of flying cars in China, Geely wholly acquired Terrafugia in 2017. Two years later, it joined hands with Daimler AG to invest €50 million in Volocopter. In addition to mergers and acquisitions, in September 2020, it joined hands with AOSSCI, a Chinese industrial drone company, to establish the unmanned aerial vehicle brand Aerofugia.
Aerofugia’s business covers unmanned aerial vehicles and manned eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) and is committed to the commercial operation of low-altitude air intelligent transportation. It focuses on the technical development of a new generation of low-altitude travel aircraft including new energy, eVTOL and intelligent cluster control, and explores two major markets: low-altitude air logistics and air travel.
In regard to low-altitude logistics, Aerofugia expects to break through the time restrictions often faced by traditional ground logistics distribution outlets through low-altitude logistics projects and realize a much more efficient point-to-point logistics service that covers sub-branch areas (within 500 kilometers); In terms of low-altitude air travel, the firm expects to provide fast air travel services in urban agglomerations with 4-5 times of travel efficiency and economic travel costs, and to create a one-hour efficient traffic circle in urban clusters.
In terms of products, in August this year, Aerofugia launched its five-seat pure electric eVTOL product TF-2. It features pure electric power and zero emissions. It doesn’t need any runway and has low noise, which will not disturb people and can support large-scale urban operations. The product also has a high degree of intelligence, with automatic task planning suggestions and full-course telex-assisted driving capabilities. Besides, it has obtained all-round airworthiness with a high rate of safety, having 10-9/h safety and a DAL-A certificate.
The flying car field, a market with great development potential, are attracting more and more enterprises to enter. Morgan Stanley and other institutions predict that the industrial scale of global urban air traffic will reach $1.5 trillion in 2040, and by 2050, nearly 100,000 flying cars will be used as air taxis, airport shuttle buses and intercity transportation worldwide. The AAM service revenue in Asia-Pacific alone could reach $36.9 billion.
Among Chinese enterprises, XPeng Motors, a new energy vehicle enterprise, is also vigorously developing flying cars. On October 10, XPeng‘s Aeroht flying car X2 completed its first overseas public flight in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which was also its debut journey since the Dubai Civil Aviation Administration issued a special permit for the model.
However, flying cars continue to face many problems, including industrial chain construction, technology iteration, manufacturing costs, market acceptance of retail prices, commercialization and so on. Recently, Kittyhawk, a well-known flying car company founded in 2010 by Sebastian Thrun, the father of Google’s unmanned vehicles and funded by Larry Page, the founder of Google, announced that it will soon close down its operations.