21 Mar 2023
EHang, the Guangzhou-based developer of eVTOL aircraft, announced that China’s aviation authority is close to certifying the EHang EH216. In third-quarter earnings call on Dec. 2, 2021, EHang executives said that they are hopeful that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will issue a type certification for the EH216 “in the next few months.” If granted, the certification would enable the company to begin commercial operations, a first for both the CAAC and an eVTOL developer. The CAAC approach to certification allows more leeway for demonstration flights than current US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules for Part 23 airplanes or Part 27 rotorcraft.
EHang executives have described their push for CAAC to approve the EH216 design as the company’s top priority. EHang applied for type certification from the CAAC for the EH216 in December 2020. In April 2021, EHang announced that the CAAC had established a team dedicated to studying the EH216 application. Since then, representatives from EHang and the CAAC have held a series of meetings to advance the certification process. As of early December 2021, the CAAC was soliciting public comments on a draft special conditions certification.
Although commercial operations remain pending, EHang continues to study potential eVTOL routes and conduct demonstration flights with the EH216. In late November, EHang released a video of six EH216s conducting simultaneous trial flights. Then, in early December, EHang demonstrated the potential for aerial sightseeing operations in an exhibition flight of the EH216 in Bali, Indonesia, a tourist hotspot. As of November 2021, EHang says that it has conducted more than 20,000 trial flights of the EH216 in 11 countries. The EH216 was recently visited at exhibits by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Felipe VI, the King of Spain.
A growing focus of EHang’s flight trials is an operational model known as the 100 Air Mobility Routes Initiative, a digital platform and a network of eVTOL routes that EHang hopes will soon connect key cities in southeast China. In its latest earnings call, EHang executives said that the company has conducted approximately 2,800 flights in support of the 100 Air Mobility Routes Initiative and activated a 50-member team to work on the project. To evaluate the model, EHang has partnered with the Shenzhen-based HELI-EASTERN to launch an aerial sightseeing trial at one of its heliports in Maluan Hill. EHang hopes that the 100 Air Mobility Routes Initiative will provide the foundation for future air mobility operations.
EHang is the most established and farthest ahead of a large number of eVTOL developers in China, including XPeng's HT Aero, Geely's Aerofugia, TCab and others.