China’s EHang flew its 216 autonomous aerial vehicle for the first time in North America with a public demonstration on January 7 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The unmanned flight was conducted with the approval of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
EHang intends to keep the 216 in the U.S. and is looking to conduct longer flight trials as it prepares to achieve type certification for the two-seat air-taxi aircraft. FAA and state officials inspected the aircraft before the flight, which was witnessed by 100 people, including state governor Roy Cooper, on the eve of the 2020 North Carolina Transportation Summit.
Last year, with the approval of the Civil Aviation Administration of China and local officials, EHang began flight trials in its home city of Guangzhou. It has also demonstrated the aircraft in Austria, where its manufacturing partner FACC is based.
Derrick Xiong, EHang co-founder and chief marketing officer, told AIN that the company aims to start passenger-carrying flight trials in the U.S. “The flight today is very important to allow them [the FAA officials] understand our autonomous aerial vehicle technology because to see is to believe [when it comes to] making standards,” he commented.
On December 12, 2019, EHang raised around $46 million through its initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Market. The company’s stock floated at $12.50 and stood at $13.55 at close of trading on January 7.
North Carolina has ambitions to be a hub for autonomous aircraft development and operations. In 2019, the state supported the launch of a commercial drone delivery service that transports medical samples and supplies for Raleigh’s WakeMed Hospital.