EHang has conducted a passenger-carrying flight demonstration with its 216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV), it reported yesterday. According to the Chinese company, the eVTOL flew the aircraft autonomously with passengers during the 2019 Northeast Asia Expo, held in Changchun in China’s Jilin province from August 23 to 27.
The company has previously completed several other public demonstration flights in its home city of Guangzhou, as well as in Lianyungang, Luzhi, Taizhou, Yantai, and Shenyang. Since unveiling its first AAV prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2016, EHang has also conducted demonstration flights in Austria, the Netherlands, and Qatar. Some of these flights have carried passengers.
The EHang 216 can carry a payload of 485 pounds on flights of up to 22 miles and at speeds of up to 81 mph. Its single-seat sister aircraft, the 116, has the same range and speed limits.
Last month, EHang received an unmanned aircraft system safety certificate from the China Academy of Civil Aviation Science and Technology, establishing that the 216 AAV can be safely operated within an electronic “fence” that the company developed to prevent autonomous aircraft from operating in restricted areas. This step is part of wider operational evaluation work now being conducted in the city of Guangzhou in partnership with local authorities.
The company has not yet published dates for anticipated type certification of its first two AAV models. However, it does claim to have already received orders for more than 1,000 eVTOLs and said that it has delivered early examples of the aircraft to undisclosed partner companies in several countries for demonstration purposes.
[This story we amended on September 9 to indicate that the AAV flight in Jilin was not in fact the aircraft's first-ever passenger carrying flight. In fact, it was just the first such flight in that location.]