EHang has inaugurated its first European UAM centre in Spain, inside the Lleida-Alguaire International airport, in collaboration with Aeroports de Catalunya. This is a first-of-its-kind eVTOL centre in Europe and sets a benchmark globally for the effective integration of eVTOL aircraft operation with airport infrastructure, air traffic management systems, operational procedures and other information technologies.
The EH216-S deployed there will enable the accumulation of operational experience as well as invaluable knowledge. By integrating vast flight experience gathered from various locations worldwide, this collective information can be leveraged to the development of technological solutions, regulations, processes and procedures for the safe and efficient integration of eVTOL aircraft into European airspace.
The UAM centre includes a vertiport that is fully compliant with EASA design criteria, which will enable seamless incorporation of the airport terminal, platform, control tower, equipment, procedures and regulations. It will enable a vast amount of knowledge and expertise to be accumulated on both vertiport establishment and operations, to facilitate intelligent eVTOL operating models and their smart deployment across multiple locations.
EHang founder, chairman and CEO Huazhi Hu says: "The establishment of EHang's European UAM centre marks an important step forward in the company's international development. Through this, EHang expects to manifest its strong commitment to the development and deployment of UAM in Europe. EHang aims to share its certified and validated technology, and operational experience, with its partners around the world to achieve a shared vision of benefiting all of society with safe, autonomous and eco-friendly UAM solutions."
Marc Sanglas, secretary of mobility and infrastructure to the Catalonian Government adds: "We are especially proud of the cooperation with EHang, to whom we are grateful for having chosen our international airport as its first European UAM centre."
Victoria Xiang, COO of EHang Europe and Latin America, says: "EHang's European UAM centre was initially conceived to support the company's operations and activities under SESAR-JU's U-ELCOME and EUSPA's SAMVA projects. In addition we are looking at scaling its applications to advance innovative air mobility projects, as well as EASA's certification and airworthiness requirements, to further promote industry development and make UAM a reality in Europe, a future we are looking forward to creating."
The type certificate for EHang's EH216-S passenger-carrying unmanned aircraft vehicle UAV system was issued by the CAAC in October this year, making it the first unmanned eVTOL in the world to obtain type certification and be qualified for commercial passenger-carrying UAV operations in China. The OEM is now working on production and airworthiness certificates, and has completed documentation review and most of the definition and practical assessments. The initial batch of EH216-S aircraft is scheduled to roll off the production line for customer deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2023.
The type certificate data sheet, released alongside the type certificate, is an integral document for all aviation product categories. Operating under the 'progressive risk' principle, EHang prioritises safe operations and accountability to the public to avoid unforeseen safety challenges in various situations once official commercial operations commence. EHang, adhering to the conventional principles of imposing prudent restrictions first and lifting restriction by stages akin to procedures observed in the introduction of new aircraft (such as limitations on defining flight routes, scheduling and operational assurances for commercial operations of airliners), has agreed to operational limitations for the initial phase. These will gradually be lifted as it realises comprehensive unmanned commercial operations across urban areas.
To ensure safety, EHang will closely monitor new routes during the first phase of commercial operations. Moreover, it will position extra observers in areas that are beyond the operators' visual line of sight to satisfy requirements for beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations. The EH216-S will not operate over water, however there won't be restrictions on water bodies like lakes, rivers and the seaside for aerial tourism and sightseeing experiences, or for other low-altitude flights in certain urban areas. Under the CAAC's guidance of 'conducted trial operations while advancing certification', the EH216-S has completed numerous test flights at high-altitude areas, proving its full capability in such scenarios. Following the first phase of safe operations, EHang will further expand various operational scenarios and progressively introduce BVLOS flights and those at higher altitudes areas.
Huazhi Hu says: "Safety is the lifeline of the aviation industry. Ensuring a rigorous and systematic approach to the research and development, production, operation and management of aerial vehicles remains a core value for the CAAC, EHang and all our collaborators. We will continue to innovate and maintain our leading advantages. In accordance with the CAAC's safety standards and airworthiness requirements, we are committed to ensuring the safety of every passenger and cementing a solid foundation for commercial operations. Looking ahead, we will further advance UAV passenger-carrying flight operations and full-scale commercial deployments to achieve milestones in the development of the global low-altitude economy."