EHang’s uncrewed passenger drone gets license to fly in China

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has declared EHang’s uncrewed passenger drone fit to fly in commercial operations, making it the first eVTOL to obtain such approval. Ehang considers the license an ”epoch-making milestone” for commercial UAM operations and is likely correct.

EHang passenger drone Type Certification ceremony in Beijing
Image: EHang

The type certificate (TC) was issued for the EH216-S, the company’s uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) system, and certifies that the drone fully complies with CAAC’s safety standards and airworthiness requirements.

The TC did not fall out of the sky. Ehang launched an early version of a passenger drone in 2018. Following from there, EHang had applied to enter the TC approval process in January 2021 and says it since worked “closely with CAAC and its expert team towards validating and verifying the aircraft’s technologies”.

The learnings went both ways. While EHang worked on its technology, CAAC adjusted its standards by upholding “conventional century-old aviation principles alongside an innovation-centric approach,” writes EHang. The resulting ‘Special Conditions’ for the EH216-S UAV System were published in February 2022 and may allow similar systems to get type approval quicker.

The EH216-S underwent over 500 specific tests and more than 40,000 test flights at professional aviation laboratories and test sites across multiple locations in China. These tests included but were not limited to material performance, flame resistance, crashworthiness, overall system functionality, electromagnetic compatibility, flight performance and others.

Commenting on today’s news, Huazhi Hu, Founder of EHang, thanked CAAC and the team “for their unwavering dedication. Our self-developed EH216-S passenger-carrying UAV system has finally met high expectation to secure the first TC in the global eVTOL industry, marking a significant chapter in civil aviation history.”

The company plans to start commercial operations of the EH216-S uncrewed eVTOLs but has yet to deliver details on launch markets.

Norway and Spain showed interest early on and granted the Chinese manufacturer permission to launch test flights in 2020. Specifically, CAA Norway issued an operational flight permit for EHang to conduct flights with a local customer for testing and potential certification. The authority believes the country’s geographic conditions, meaning an abundance of sparsely populated areas, suit the testing of uncrewed aircraft well.

The Nasdaq-listed company with headquarters in Guangzhou also received its special flight authorisation from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and conducted its first-ever trial flight of EHang 216 in the US earlier this year.


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