China-based EHang and its Austrian manufacturing partner FACC AG have announced the first flight of an EH216 “passenger-grade” eVTOL in Austria, and approval by the country’s civil aviation authority to conduct ongoing trial flights of the autonomous aircraft.
According to EHang, the permit issued Dec. 9 is the first such approval the company has received within the European Union proper, although it received a similar authorization earlier this year in Norway.
Technical experts from EHang and FACC reportedly worked with Austria’s regulators for several months to meet national and European requirements for the permit. As part of that process, they conducted a test flight last month at the FACC site in St. Martin im Innkreis using the EH216 registered OE-VFA.
Following a specific operational risk assessment procedure, the aircraft took off in open airspace, flew for several minutes using automatic flight programming, and then safely landed. The flight was conducted under the supervision of regulators and the air navigation services provider Austro Control, EHang said.
“The successful test flight of our autonomous flying taxi in Austrian airspace is the starting signal for a comprehensive test program for EHang 216,” stated Robert Machtlinger, CEO of FACC AG, in a press release translated by Google from the original German. “We are thus creating the basis for the approval of an innovative, highly flexible, and sustainable traffic and transport solution for urban centers.”
In August, EHang announced a partnership with the multi-utility provider Linz AG to implement a pilot urban air mobility (UAM) operation in Linz, Austria. The program will start with unmanned flights and a single route along the Danube river to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing UAM services with the two-passenger EH216.
FACC is providing EHang with support in developing, certifying, and manufacturing lightweight components and systems for its autonomous aerial vehicles.
“The market in the area of urban air mobility holds enormous possibilities and opportunities [ranging] from search-and-rescue services to supply flights for materials in areas that are difficult to access, ambulance flights, and taxi flights in megacities,” Machtlinger said. “FACC and its strong network of innovative partner companies, public authorities, and universities, as well as the state of Austria, are pioneers in this area.”