After conducting a test flight of the EHang 216 autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) in Austria in November, the country’s civil aviation authority issued a trial flight permit on December 9 that allows EHang to conduct further unmanned flights. According to EHang, this is the first issuance of a flight permit for unmanned flights of its “passenger-grade” AAVs in the European Union.
The November test flight took place in “harsh weather conditions,” EHang said, which included cold temperatures and high winds, in St Martin im Innkreis. The flight was managed autonomously but under the supervision of air traffic management organization Austro Control.
EHang expects the trial flight permit to demonstrate the benefits of the 216 model to regulators, customers, and partners and further EHang's growth in Europe and accelerate commercial AAV operations. “What is a reality today in Asia also comes closer in Europe,” the company said.
Both EHang and its Austrian strategic partner FACC, which manufactures the two-passenger 216's composite structure, worked several months to meet Austrian and European requirements to secure the issuance of the permit. This included several tests and inspections of the vehicle conducted by the EHang team and Austro Control experts.
“The successful completion of the test flight of our autonomous aerial vehicle in Austrian airspace marks the start of a comprehensive test program of the 216, laying the foundation for the approval of an innovative, highly flexible, and sustainable traffic and transport solution for urban agglomerations,” said FACC CEO Robert Machtlinger. “I am very proud of the entire team and would like to congratulate them on this groundbreaking milestone.”
EHang aims to certify its eVTOL aircraft under new rules being prepared by the European Aviation Safety Agency, of which Austria is a member. In China, where the company is headquartered, it expects the Civil Aviation Administration of China to issue a type certificate for the 216 before the end of 2021.
FACC is an aerospace group with particular expertise in aircraft components and systems manufacturing. The public company's majority shareholder, with a 55 percent stake, is AVIC Cabin System Co, which is part of the Chinese government-backed AVIC aerospace group.