Air taxi firms expect regulatory approval in 2026

Zhu Shenshen
Domestic eVTOL businesses are flying high at the China (Shanghai) International Technology Import and Export Fair, showcasing their urban mobility.
Zhu Shenshen
Air taxi firms expect regulatory approval in 2026
zhu shenshen / SHINE

Visitors check out eVTOL flight experiences in Volant's booth.

Domestic eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) companies are flying high at the China (Shanghai) International Technology Import and Export Fair, displaying their vision for the future of urban mobility.

These Shanghai-based companies will see air taxis whisking passengers between cities in minutes, pending licenses widely expected to be issued by national authorities around 2026.

AutoFlight, TCab Tech, Vertaxi, and Volant are leading China's "Low-Altitude Economy," a concept incorporated in the national development roadmap and a buzzword in the capital market with associated shares rising by 2024.

Air taxi firms expect regulatory approval in 2026
Ti Gong

AutoFlight's eVTOL

The tech fair, as a premier science and technology event in Shanghai, provides an opportunity for companies to stretch their technological muscles and seek domestic and international partners and clients.

Shanghai TCab Tech signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the AVIC Xi'an Aeronautics Computing Technique Research Institute. TCab, which announced a US$20 million funding round in March, displayed a model of their E20 air taxi, which can accommodate five people: one driver and four customers.

Vertaxi is demonstrating its M1 eVTOL vehicle, which can carry five passengers and has a designed range of 250 kilometers. This model, which was previously shown at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, completed its first test flight in October. By 2026, the company expects to receive the standard airworthiness certificate, which signifies full regulatory acceptance.

Notably, the M1 is China's first locally developed two-ton eVTOL, with domestic technology in its main electric system, flight control system, and composites.

AutoFlight will demonstrate its Prosperity I eVTOL at the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, Japan, and plans to develop its air taxi company in Southeast Asia and the Middle East regions. It intends to acquire equivalent passenger flying clearance in China in 2026.

AutoFlight is already conducting commercial flights for the cargo and logistics industries, with eVTOLs employed by ZTO Express, one of China's leading logistics organizations. The tech fair also features a full-size eVTOL cabin for emergencies such as firefighting.

Volant, which just concluded a 100 million yuan fundraising round, will display a model of its air taxi VE25 during the expo. The company stated that it will be utilized in low-altitude tourism and emergency rescue after receiving certification in 2026.

Air taxi firms expect regulatory approval in 2026
zhu shenshen / SHINE

Vertaxi's M1 eVTOL is capable of carrying five passengers and boasts a range of 250 kilometers.

Rapid Shanghai eVTOL industry and certificate issues

Shanghai is becoming a global hub for eVTOL firms, given its extensive supply chain, excellent research capabilities, and the presence of giants such as the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, which developed China's first commercial jet, the C919.

"When you talk about eVTOL with wings, the firms must be in Shanghai," said an industry insider.

Research and development in areas such as battery efficiency, noise reduction, and autonomous flight control are thriving, drawing top talent and cultivating a culture of healthy competition.

The aim of 2026 is a huge step forward, as there was previously no set timescale for air taxi legislation.

Normally, enterprises should get three-step certificates, such as a Type Certificate (TC), a Production Certificate (PC), and a Standard Airworthiness Certificate (AC). Most businesses are still in the process of gaining TC, which is the most challenging phase in the industry.

Air taxi firms expect regulatory approval in 2026
zhu shenshen / SHINE

Shanghai TCab Tech exhibited its E20 model and signed a tech collaboration agreement with AVIC Xi'an Aeronautics Computing Technique Research Institute.

While obtaining an airworthiness license remains a challenge, Shanghai is actively promoting its acceleration to fully realize the low-altitude economy's potential.

The research, manufacture, and operation of these aircraft represent a substantial economic opportunity. New jobs will be produced in engineering, manufacturing, and infrastructure development, accelerating growth in industries such as tourism, transportation, logistics, e-commerce, and emergency response.

This shift to eVTOLs has the potential to transform urban mobility by providing speedier travel times, less congestion, and a new dimension to urban transportation in Shanghai and elsewhere.

Shanghai is studying the opening of low-altitude airspace, actively exploring the integration of manned and unmanned airspace operation modes, and improving the efficiency of low-altitude airspace management and service quality, according to Zhang Ying, director of the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Informatization, in May.

She also emphasized the sector's enormous business potential.

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