Electronics company TDK Corp. subsidiary TDK Ventures Inc. has invested in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air mobility company AutoFlightX. It’s the fourth investment by the TDK corporate venture capital (CVC) fund since its July 2019 launch with a mission to invest in innovative startups focusing on digital and energy transformation and contributing to sustainability.
“TDK’s multi-dimensional core competency in sensors, energy, and power makes them our strongest partner so far,” CEO and founder of AutoFlightX Tian Yu said. “As we look into the horizon of tomorrow’s mobility, we are committed to bringing high-endurance eVTOL vehicles with the best reliability and safety. We are thrilled to have TDK as our partner because they are world leaders in commercializing advanced technologies and supporting hard-tech entrepreneurs like us.”
According to TDK Ventures’ Managing Director Nicolas Sauvage, the CVC sought companies that combine avionics and drone expertise with strong unit economics, paired with solid business models in the eVTOL space. For TDK Ventures, the ideal company would unlock a spectrum of use cases in inspection, cargo delivery, and emergency responses, all without requiring an installed charging infrastructure base.
AutoFlightX’s 50kg platform can carry payloads of up to 20kg and has a flight time of two to five hours continuous cruise. The company also has a pipeline of platforms that will carry up to 300kg and can fly two to five hours, depending on the payload.
“We believe AutoFlightX’s innovations reflect a combination of the best consumer drone talent from China paired with the aviation engineering rigor of Germany,” Sauvage noted.
Tian Yu, who is the former founder and CEO of Yuneec, started AutoFlightX in 2018 with a vision to transform air mobility. Yu subsequently assembled a team of more than 100 engineers in Munich, Germany; and Shenzhen and Shanghai, China, to leverage the best of consumer drones and aviation with the goal of building the highest energy-efficient eVTOL vehicle.
AutoFlightX has already signed on several customers in the mining and inspection industries with its V40 Whiteshark drone platform that can carry a 20kg payload. The AutoFlightX team has also recently completed the first full maiden flight of a 300kg platform, which can deliver medicine and other time-sensitive supplies up to 100kg. A 1,000kg platform is currently under development, with plans for initial flights in 2020. AutoFlightX believes its 1,000kg platform will ultimately pave the path to air taxis, which will hold up to four passengers and have a range of more than 300km with a single charge.