Autonomous Flight Ready To Build Flying Prototype Y6S

 - February 22, 2019, 1:22 PM
The Autonomous Flight Y6S Development Prototype has moving shrouds and fans to show its tiltrotor concept.

Autonomous Flight—the Sevenoaks, UK-based start-up that is developing a two-seat, all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft—said it has very nearly finalized $25 million of funding for the next stage to build a prototype capable of flight and able to undertake a certification program. It has spent the past year completing a full-size (20-foot wide by 22-feet long) developmental mockup.

The Y6S (Y as it is Y-shaped; 6 since it has six fans, two in each shroud; and S for "sport") is designed to fly two people at 72 mph and 1,500 feet above the ground, with a range of 80 miles (68 net of reserve power). It has tilt-props and two wings that can support its entire 2,000-pound mtow in cruise.

Company chairman and founder Martin Warner told AIN during a February 21 preview of the Y6S, which included operating the fan controls in the two-person cockpit, that the next design will be a nine-seater (including pilot) named the AS1, for Air Shuttle One. Having analyzed various cities—in particular London, Los Angeles and Paris—Warner said having two- or four-seater eVTOLs will not meet demand or be viable as “flying taxis” since there’s only so many urban aircraft a city can accommodate, at least in the early days of this new technology.

The AS1 would overcome this issue, be more viable for operators, and also have other applications, such as for cargo carriage. The Y6S would still be available for private users—“People like me,” said Warner.

Autonomous Flight is lagging behind its original timetable, as it had expected to have a flying Y6S prototype by the end of last year, but at present it is just at the start of the prototype design and build process. The company plans to fly it in the third or fourth quarter.

Its Y6S will have six removable racks of Li-ion batteries–a total of 4,500 cells, and total weight 450 pounds—which can easily be swapped out, said Warner.

“If we can produce 1,000-plus vehicles, the price could be at the $40,000 level,” Warner said, while criticizing some competing designs for rushing in and not thinking things through. “What makes the Y6S unique is its six motors and its Y-frame, and that it is a transition aircraft. Nothing else combines all these elements.”

Warner, who netted millions of dollars after inventing a desktop 3D printer, estimates that a total of between $32 million and $35 million will be the total funding required to bring the Y6S to market and estimates it will take seven years to break even. He envisions a build number “in the low thousands.”

Warner does not rule out selling Autonomous Flight if he received the right offer, but for now he is dedicated to pushing the program through the next stage and pulling in the resources to fully “refine” the design, which started life as a UAV-like mockup that now adorns the company’s wall at its headquarters.

The company currently has 10 employees, but Warner said this will grow to 30 employees, with 80 percent of the recruitment for that due to be completed within six months of second-stage funding being completed­.