While major aerospace manufacturers are finalizing designs for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles, a number of Chinese private firms have unveiled their respective designs and begun trial flights alongside regulators.
Ehang unveiled its first eVTOL product, the Ehang 184, three years ago and just last week, demonstrated the capability of the two-seat Ehang 216 in the Generali Arena in Vienna, Austria, with the endorsement of Austrian transport minister Norbert Hofer who was also a passenger in a demonstration flight.
Derrick Xiong, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Ehang, said the company is conducting trials with the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) in Taizhong and is carrying out routine ferry flights for tourists between a hotel and tourist attractions.
“It is very important that we do such flights even if they are only about two kilometers away,” he said. “As there are no countries that have an established eVTOL regulation, we must develop our own standards.”
Xiong added that he hopes to work with an artificial organ manufacturer in the U.S. to carry organs from the factory to the hospital autonomously. The transportation of live organs is currently done by helicopter or business jet, often while carrying medical specialists. The eVTOL solution will cancel out the need to charter an aircrew and helicopter or jet.
German-registered company AutoFlightX also took the covers off its latest eVTOL solution, the V600. The company was founded by Chinese entrepreneur Tian Yu in February 2018, and he is also the CEO, as well as being a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot.
“Everyone has a different approach to eVTOL design," he said. "I used my understanding as a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot to put all the elements together to make the V600 effective." The company hopes it can make its first air cargo delivery by 2022 and carry its first air-taxi passenger by 2025.
Shane Tedjarati, Honeywell president of the company's global high-growth regions, said the industry needs hundreds of tech entrepreneurs to make the eVTOL scene thrive and he has no doubt eVTOL will take off in China.
“I already think autonomous vehicles will become common in China before the U.S.,” he said. ”There is no worry about adoption as Chinese are willing to test and try. It's digital, and [cellphone] technology is an example [where] the adoption rate is so fast.”
He stressed that eVTOLs should not be a tool for the elite and should be low-cost and available for the masses to create an impact.