EHang Holdings Limited has obtained the world's first commercial pilot operation approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to use EHang 216 passenger-grade AAVs for air logistics purposes. Thus, EHang has become the world's first AAV company approved by a national aviation authority to carry out commercial pilot operation for the category of 150 kg plus heavy-lift air logistics uses.
This approval was granted based on the Pilot Operation Rules (Interim) for Specific Unmanned Aircraft promulgated by CAAC in February 2019 for different categories of specific unmanned aircraft including passenger-grade AAVs. It is a pioneering regulation for which the CAAC applied the Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA) framework of the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS), a group of experts from the national aviation authorities of 61 countries, including China and the US, and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Eurocontrol.
With this approval, trial air logistics services using the EHang 216 will be carried out to transport cargo between the ground and hilltop and between the shore and islands at a customer site in Taizhou. It is also intended to be gradually expanded to other sites in China as it accumulates operational data and experience.
As the first company approved for the passenger-grade AAV airworthiness certification pilot programme by CAAC and as a member of the CAAC Special Expert Taskforce, the accumulated flight trials and tests conducted by EHang have contributed significant practical experience to CAAC to further develop and evolve regulations and standards related to passenger-grade AAVs.
CAAC deputy administrator Li Jian comments: “I am pleased to see the fast development that EHang has achieved in China and globally, and that the flight test programme of its passenger-grade AAVs were successfully verified by CAAC to be granted with this approval. It can be a safe and efficient solution to transport cargo.”
CAAC chief engineer Yin Shijun adds: “We encourage the development of the unmanned aircraft industry while ensuring safety. The EHang 216 is a passenger-grade AAV that is quite different from other unmanned aircraft. We will provide our strong support and help accelerate the commercialisation of this innovative air mobility solution.”
EHang founder, chairman and CEO Hu Huazhi says the approval is of great significance. “For EHang, it enables us to enhance our first-mover advantage and accelerate the commercialisation 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 promising Urban Air Mobility (UAM) applications.”
Air logistics is an essential UAM application with huge market potential. According to Morgan Stanley, the global UAM market size could reach US$1.5 trillion by 2040. Air logistics is expected to be one of the initial applications for commercialisation.