EHang has formed a partnership with the Greenland Hong Kong real estate group to launch aerial sightseeing tours with the EH216 autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) in the city of Zhaoqing in Guangdong, China. Plans call for EHang to initially offer aerial sightseeing services to passengers initially from a base in Greenland Hong Kong’s Forest Lake development. The company's December 28 announcement did not say when services will begin.
Forest Lake is near the new Zhaoqing-Pearl River Delta-Hub Airport, currently under construction. EHang said the area has a number of tourist attractions, including seven natural lakes and wetlands covering 300 hectares (741 acres).
According to EHang, the services fall in line with a 2017 joint directive by the Chinese Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China on "Suggestions on Promoting the Integrated Development of Transportation and Tourism," which encourages the development of aerial sightseeing at key tourist cities and scenic spots, EHang said. The AAV specialist sees a strong market for such services, citing estimates that the low-altitude tourism market could reach 4.2 billion passengers in the upcoming years.
EHang's plans call to expand that service to further locations using the two-seat EH216 aircraft. "We are excited to partner with Greenland Hong Kong to launch trial operations of the EH216 and bring our safe, green, and comfortable UAM services to local residents,” said EHang chief strategy officer Edward Xu. “As an AAV technology platform company and a UAM operator, we are steadily rolling out global trial operations and will further work with our partners to build more UAM networks.”
The agreement follows recent approval for a passenger-grade EH216 flight trial in Austria and the launch of recent flight trials in Korea. EHang additionally has worked with authorities for various flights in Spain, Norway, Canada, and the U.S. among other locations.
In addition to aerial sightseeing, EHang has entered partnerships for the potential use of the vehicles for multiple purposes, including air ambulance, logistics support, and firefighting.
Separately, EHang has welcomed China's new standards for unmanned aircraft delivery services, which went into force on January 1. The Specification for Express Delivery Service was published last week by the State Post Bureau of the People's Republic of China. According to EHang, it joined private sector delivery groups ZTO Express and JD.com in helping to formulate the new rules.
The standard (full text in Chinese) applies to delivery operations conducted with unmanned aircraft with a maximum empty weight of 116 kg (255 pounds), a maximum takeoff weight not exceeding 150 kg (330 pounds, i.e. allowing a payload of up to around 85 pounds) and an airspeed no higher than 100 km/h (62 mph). It specifies the types of operations permitted, the requirements for companies conducting deliveries, procedures, and safety requirements.
This story was updated on January 6 to provide additional information about new standards covering unmanned aircraft delivery services in China.