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China Makes Progress on eVTOL Aircraft Development

China has made progress in development of electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft. China views the eVTOL platform as a revolution in aviation. “Similar to the transition from gasoline cars to electric cars on the ground, [a transition] from gasoline-powered helicopters to eVTOL aircraft [is occurring],” said Xie Jia, Senior Vice President of Fengfei Aviation Technology, Shanghai.

On October 10, 2023, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China jointly issued an “Outline for the Development of a Green Aviation Manufacturing Industry (2023-2035)” proposing that, by 2025, eVTOLs will achieve pilot operation. The outline further proposes that, by 2035, new types of general aviation equipment characterized by unmanned, electric, and intelligent features will achieve commercialization and large-scale application.

In October 2023, China had its first flight of a 2-ton eVTOL in Shanghai. The aircraft, the M1, was developed by the Future Wing Company in Shanghai. The vehicle became China’s first independently-developed and domestically-produced 2-ton eVTOL. Production was domestic in all three core areas: electric systems, flight control systems, and composite materials. The M1 has a composite wing configuration with 20 rotors, a maximum payload of 500 kilograms, seating for 5 people, a cruising speed of 200 kilometers per hour, and an intended range of 250 kilometers. It can meet short-distance air travel needs within and between cities, shortening travel time from 2-3 hours to around 30 minutes.

In March of 2024, the eVTOL “Shengshi Long” took off from Shenzhen and landed at the Zhuhai, both in Guangdong Province, covering a distance in 20 minutes that would have taken 3 hours by car. This was the world’s first public demonstration of an eVTOL flight that traveled over water and between cities. The aircraft was developed by Shanghai Fengfei Aviation Technology Co., Ltd., with a takeoff weight of 2 tons, seating for 5 people, a cruising speed of up to 200 kilometers per hour, and 100 percent domestic production of its core modules.

1. People’s Daily, October 31, 2023
2. People’s Daily, March 2, 2024