The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has approved eVTOL aircraft developer EHang to conduct commercial logistics flights using its 216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle on behalf of a hotel operator at Taizhou in southern China. EHang claims this is the world’s first commercial pilot operation to be approved by a national aviation authority and the permission has been granted even though the all-electric EHang 216 has not yet completed type certification.
The approval, which was announced on May 27, follows earlier interim approval granted in February 2019 for trial operations for the Model 216, including some that have carried passengers. None of these flights, made at a number of locations in China, were conducted on a commercial basis.
EHang will carry loads such as luggage or groceries for its unnamed client between several sites in the Taizhou area, including a hilltop location and a nearby island. The 216 can carry a payload of up to 485 pounds, consisting of freight or up to two passengers.
The manufacturer said it hopes to get approval to carry hotel guests on sightseeing flights. Earlier this month, it signed an agreement with Guangzhou-based LN Holdings to develop tourist flight services at several of the company’s hotels in China.
To earn the CAAC approval, the EHang 216 has conducted tests to show that it can fly safely with at least one of its eight motors and propellers inoperable, within an electronic "fence" to confine unmanned aircraft operations and to locations up to three miles offshore. The regulator’s chief engineer Yin Shijun said that it intends to “provide strong support and help accelerate the commercialization of this innovative air mobility solution."