China gives Ehang the first industry approval for fully autonomous, passenger-carrying air taxis

by | Oct 13, 2023 | Financial

An EHang all-electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) two-passenger multicopter aircraft, performs an unmanned display flight at a Korean government event at Yeouido island in Seoul on November 11, 2020.Ed Jones | Afp | Getty ImagesBEIJING — Self-driving air taxis are one step closer to reality in China.Guangzhou-based Ehang on Friday said it received an airworthiness “type certificate” from the Civil Aviation Administration of China for its fully autonomous drone, the EH216-S AAV, that carries two human passengers. The regulator is the equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S.U.S.-listed Ehang claims it’s the first in the world to get such a certificate, which allows it to fly passenger-carrying autonomous electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in China.The certificate will also significantly simplify the company’s ability to get similar certificates for commercial operation in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia, CEO Huazhi Hu told CNBC in a video conference interview.”Next year we should start to expand overseas,” he said, noting those regulators still need to establish a process for mutual regulation of the Chinese airworthiness certification. That’s according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.Ehang shares have nearly doubled in price this year, before trading was temporarily halted Monday “in anticipation of an upcoming announcement concerning a very significant development regarding its business operations.” Trading was set to resume Friday.The company has a market capitalization of about $1 billion.Global regulatory actionThe U.S. FAA in July released a plan that provides a path toward allowing similar autonomous flying vehicles, but initially still requires pilots to sit on board.California-based Joby Aviation, one of the leading industry players in the U.S., announced earlier this month it expanded its flight test program from remote piloting to include a pilot on board — but it didn’t mention any passengers. Joby has a contract with the U.S. Air Force the company claims is worth up to $131 million.Regulators in China have been paving the way for autonomous flying vehicles to gain certification. In June, China released new rules for unmanned aircraft flight — vehicles without a pilo …

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