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Autonomous Liftoff: China to Mass Produce Pilotless Flying Taxis

Taking Flight: EHang Clears Path for Autonomous Flying Taxis in China
Source: EHang

EHang's EH216-S "passenger-carrying pilotless" eVTOL has received clearance to be mass-produced.

Apr. 30 2024, Published 3:03 p.m. ET

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The era of autonomous flying taxis is on the horizon, thanks to EHang securing the world's first production certificate for manufacturing them in China.

EHang recently announced that its EH216-S, a "passenger-carrying pilotless" electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, has received clearance from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for mass production.

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This milestone signifies a significant leap forward in the development of eVTOLs for commercial deployment.

CEO of EHang, Huazhi Hu, expressed the company's vision of delivering safe and reliable pilotless eVTOL aircraft to the global market, ushering in a new era of safe, autonomous and environmentally friendly air mobility services, Live Science reported.

The production certificate authorizes EHang to oversee the entire manufacturing process of flying cars, from sourcing raw materials to supply chain management, quality control, testing and after-sales repair and maintenance, all subject to rigorous reviews and inspections.

The EH216-S, first unveiled in 2018, is a compact, fully-electric VTOL craft featuring a carbon fiber fuselage and 16 propellers powered by as many motors. With a cruise speed of 62 mph and a maximum altitude of approximately 10,000 feet, it is designed to accommodate two passengers and boasts an autonomous driving system, eliminating the need for a pilot.

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EHang has extensively tested the VTOL through both crewed and uncrewed flights, building upon its previous model, the EHang 184 "passenger drone," introduced in 2016.

Intended applications for the EH216-S encompass a wide range of services, including air taxi operations, aerial tourism, airport shuttles and inter-island transportation.

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This mass production approval marks a significant milestone in realizing the potential of unmanned eVTOLs and similar aircraft. It positions China as a frontrunner in making flying taxis a practical and accessible service.

While the EH216-S has garnered approval for large-scale production, the CAAC's Green Aviation Manufacturing Development Outline (2023-2035), released in October 2023, outlines a roadmap for introducing pilot-operated eVTOLs by 2025 and achieving widespread autonomous services by 2035. This includes the establishment of regulatory frameworks and insurance protocols for flying cars.

In contrast, the U.S.'s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Implementation Plan targets 2028 as the year for commercial eVTOL operations, emphasizing the importance of robust regulation and certification processes to ensure safety.


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