The autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) developer EHang has selected its home city of Guangzhou, China, as its first pilot city for the creation of a low-altitude aviation transportation network.
Announcing the selection on Aug. 6, EHang said it will work with the city to establish the basic infrastructure necessary to support urban air mobility, and to design associated safety rules and market entry thresholds. EHang also intends to help the Guangzhou government set up a command-and-control center for managing simultaneous AAV flights safely and effectively.
Like Uber — which has selected Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne as pilot cities for its Uber Elevate project — EHang envisions its eVTOL aircraft serving in an air taxi role. The company said it will use its pilot program in Guangzhou, a city of nearly 15 million people, to test flight routes and vertiports in practical scenarios before moving into commercial passenger-carrying operations.
However, EHang is also looking beyond air taxi operations to cargo applications. The company plans to work with partners to expand its operations over a wider area of Guangzhou and to transport high-value, lightweight goods such as organs and blood for emergency medical use.
“We are very excited about exploring the various meaningful ways in which AAVs can solve some of the stressors our congested cities face,” stated Hu Huazhi, EHang’s founder, chairman and CEO, in a press release. “We are in conversations with other cities, not just in China, to develop safe, efficient, and affordable autonomous air transportation.”
Earlier this year, EHang was selected by the Civil Aviation Administration of China as the country’s first and only pilot company for passenger AAV development. EHang reported that to date, it has conducted over 2,000 test flights with its AAVs both within and outside of China.
EHang has also been conducting commercial air cargo operations over the past two years in and around Guangzhou, in partnership with the express delivery company DHL-Sinotrans and the retailer Yonghui. Using its Falcon drone, EHang said it has reduced the delivery time for an eight-kilometer (five-mile) trip from 40 to eight minutes, resulting in significant cost savings.
Commenting on EHang’s selection of Guangzhou as a proving ground for urban air mobility concepts, Vice Mayor Chen Zhiying highlighted the city’s status as one of the principal transportation hubs in the Greater Bay Area, which also encompasses Shenzen, Hong Kong, and Macau.
“The city has always been very accommodating to innovation, which provides EHang with the perfect ecosystem to build out a smart [urban air mobility] market,” he said.