Passenger drone complete flight in Japan

Oh, hi there at EHang!

It has been long. What is up with you?

Apparently, the Chinese drone maker is making progress in its quest to be the world’s first passenger drone company of choice. The company’s flagship unmanned passenger aircraft, the E216 drone recently completed its first autonomous flight in Japan, while carrying two passengers with no pilot on board.

The passengers were taken for a trip along the coastline of Tanoura Beach in the city of Oita, located on the island of Kyushu in southern Japan.

The tests were done with the approval of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (“MLIT”).

“Last July, EH216 completed its Japan’s first point-to-point trial flight in Oita, receiving overwhelming responses,” said Sato Kiichiro, the Mayor of Oita who attended the event.

“Today, EH216 takes on the challenge of passenger-carrying flight here, and I am very pleased to witness this moment. I hope that today’s passenger-carrying flight test will accelerate autonomous aerial vehicles to take a further step toward practical use cases, so that this industry full of opportunities could be in full swing.”

The first pilot which the mayor referred to happened last July when the EH216 completed the first ever eVTOL point-to-point demo flight for air mobility in Oita, making a breakthrough in exploring UAM use cases in Japan.

But the first flights did not involve any passengers aboard the tin bird.

But this year, the drone maker and its local partner MASC, were prepared to get to the next level; they revisited Oita to demonstrate the EH216’s passenger-carrying autonomous flight within Japan. The hope is that this success will enhance the local community’s awareness and interest in unmanned aerial mobility, and accelerate the development of the Japanese UAM industry.

“EH216 is a leader in the eVTOL field with extensive experience in passenger-carrying flights,” said Kirino Hiroshi, Chairman of the Okayama Kurashiki Mizushima Aero & Space Industry Cluster Study Group (“MASC”); one of the passengers who took a ride with EH216.

“This successful flight test of EH216 in Oita Prefecture has shown us the possibilities of experiencing the beauty and pleasure the skies offer without a pilot. We look forward to EH216’s flight tests in more cities, and the future when EH216 can be deployed and applied in Japan.”

There was no immediate information on how long the E216 flew for. But we know the two-seater drone has the capability to fly for 25 minutes for for ranges up to 40km.

While EHang itself, through Chief Operating Officer Xin Fang, said; “Over the past two years, EH216 has achieved one milestone after another in Japan with several rounds of demo and trial flights. This year brought passengers the possibility of riding in the air with this cutting-edge product and technology.

“All these milestones are inextricably linked to the support and trust of MLIT of Japan, local government departments, and our partners. EHang has also demonstrated the reliability of our AAV products. We will continue working with our partners to promote safe, autonomous, and eco-friendly UAM solutions in Japan so as to benefit more people worldwide with our passenger-grade AAVs.”

EHang has been testing its passenger grade aircraft for a long time now; as it is currently involved with many drone integration projects in Europe, where it is demonstrating the effectiveness and safety of autonomously flying people from one point to another.

In May 2020, EHang obtained the world’s first commercial pilot operation approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to use EHang 216 passenger-grade AAVs for air logistics purpose. The EHang 216 also received a special flight operations certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) for test flights in Québec, Canada.


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