EHang has announced that its “passenger-grade” EHang 216 autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) has obtained approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to conduct a pilot operation transporting cargo for a commercial customer.
The trial air logistics service will use the EHang 216 eVTOL to carry cargo to hilltops and islands at a customer site in Taizhou, around 290 kilometers (180 miles) south of Shanghai. EHang expects to gradually expand the trial to other sites in China as it accumulates operational data and experience.
According to EHang, the approval was granted based on the “Pilot Operation Rules (Interim) for Specific Unmanned Aircraft” promulgated by the CAAC in February 2019. It is the first such approval for an AAV in excess of 150 kilograms (330 pounds).
“We are thrilled that the CAAC and EHang took the lead on the world’s first commercial pilot operation approval of passenger-grade AAVs for air logistics uses,” stated EHang founder, chairman and CEO Hu Huazhi in a press release.
“This approval is of great significance. For EHang, it enables us to enhance our first-mover advantage and accelerate the commercialization of AAV technology and air mobility solutions for logistics. It also lays a foundation for regulators around the world to jointly explore and establish a coordinated, supportive and sustainable regulatory environment. This will benefit the long-term development of the promising urban air mobility applications,” he added.
As the first company approved for the CAAC’s passenger-grade AAV airworthiness certification pilot program, EHang said that its accumulated flight trials and tests have contributed significant practical guidance to the agency as it develops regulations for autonomous eVTOL aircraft like the EHang 216.
CAAC deputy administrator Li Jian stated, “I am pleased to see the fast development that EHang has achieved in China and globally, and that the flight test program of its passenger-grade AAVs were successfully verified by the CAAC to be granted with this approval. It can be a safe and efficient solution to transport cargo.”
CAAC chief engineer Yin Shijun added that the agency will provide its “strong support and help accelerate the commercialization of this innovative air mobility solution.”
EHang also continues to lay the groundwork for commercial passenger-carrying operations in China using the EHang 216. The company recently announced a partnership with the hotel and tourism company LN Holdings to work toward an eVTOL sightseeing service at the LN Garden Hotel in Nansha, Guangzhou.
And, EHang plans to construct an “E-port” for commercial air tour operations in Hezhou city, Guangxi province.