The Chinese city of Guangzhou has been chosen as the first pilot city for a low-altitude aviation transportation network that will shuttle passengers and goods. It is being established by autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform company, EHang.
As part of the pilot programme, EHang will help the Guangzhou government set up a command-and-control centre to ensure that multiple AAVs flying simultaneously in the city can remain in the air in a safe and efficient manner and can swiftly respond to emergencies.
EHang will help the city build up the basic infrastructure to support urban air mobility, including by designing safety rules and market entry thresholds.
On the passenger front, EHang said it plans to use the pilot programme in Guangzhou to test more flight routes and vertiports based on practical application scenarios before moving into commercial operations.
EHang will work with more partners to expand the operations to cover more areas in Guangzhou and transport a wider variety of high-value low-weight goods, including blood and organs for emergency medical use.
“Guangzhou is one of the four transportation hubs in the Greater Bay Area,” said Guangzhou’s vice mayor Chen Zhiying. “The city has always been very accommodating to innovation, which provides EHang with the perfect ecosystem to build out a smart UAM market.”
EHang has already conducted commercial operations in air cargo transportation over the past two years in and near its home base in Guangzhou, working with leading express delivery company DHL-Sinotrans and retail company Yonghui.
“The city has always been very accommodating to innovation, which provides EHang with the perfect ecosystem to build out a smart UAM market”
For example, in the DHL-Sinotrans partnership, EHang’s Falcon UAV reduces the delivery time for an 8km trip from 40 minutes to eight minutes, leading to significant cost savings.
“We are very excited about exploring the various meaningful ways in which AAVs can solve some of the stressors our congested cities face,” said Hu Huazhi, EHang’s founder, chairman and CEO. “We are in conversations with other cities, not just in China, to develop safe, efficient and affordable autonomous air transportation.”
The Guangzhou launch builds on EHang’s successful achievement of several milestones in the UAM space since its passenger-grade AAV was introduced at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
In January 2019, EHang was picked by the Civil Aviation Administration of China as the country’s first and only pilot company for passenger AAV development. Its AAV took its first global public pre-programmed flights carrying a total of 17 passengers in successive flights in Vienna in April.
To date, EHang has safely conducted over two thousand flight tests both inside and outside of China to ensure that AVVs operate safely, even in harsh weather conditions.
“Safety has been the top priority for EHang from day one,” said Hu.