As part of a nationwide policy review process, China’s State Council recommended accelerating the development of regulation to enable urban air mobility (UAM) and numerous other applications of unmanned aircraft.
“Some enterprises in Guangdong Province reported that the United States, Japan, South Korea and other countries have upgraded the urban air transportation industry with huge future development space to the national strategic level, but my country’s relevant strategic research is lagging behind, policies, regulations, and industry standards are still in a blank state,” states a Google translation of the document released by the State Council’s inspection office, including specific references to difficulty gaining flight approval, flight permits and market launch.
The policy review process involved inspection teams interviewing local citizens, officials and business leaders in provinces and municipalities across China. Guangdong Province is home to eVTOL manufacturer EHang, which in 2019 partnered with the provincial capital of Guangzhou as a pilot city for urban air mobility applications of its unmanned aircraft.
“It is recommended to incorporate the development of urban air traffic into the national strategy, issue relevant policy documents, formulate relevant standards, and promote the healthy development of the industry,” the document states, additionally suggesting that China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) finalize proposed rulemaking around civilian unmanned aircraft and development of standards specifically with regard to the use of drones for aerial firefighting purposes.
In addition to the CAAC and Chinese Ministry of Transport, the State Council transferred its recommendation regarding formation of an urban air mobility national strategy to the Chinese Development and Reform Commission, which has broad macroeconomic and state planning responsibilities. The earliest new state regulation regarding drones and UAM could be passed, if proposed, would be during the upcoming session of the National People’s Congress in March.
EHang recently completed three test flights across South Korea of its two-passenger 216 unmanned aircraft and has adapted the aircraft for firefighting purposes. The company is publicly traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol “EH” and will report its Q3 earnings for 2020 on Dec. 3.
“This circular issued by the State Council reflects the Chinese government’s great emphasis and strategic support for the new UAM industry. This will undoubtedly fuel the rapid development of UAM in China,” said EHang’s founder, chairman and CEO, Huazhi Hu, stating that the company will assist regulators in standards development surrounding its technology.