Passenger drones for Austria, Singapore

GUANGZHOU – Chinese autonomous aerial vehicle manufacturer, Ehang’s quest to lead the global drive for autonomous taxis has received a major European boost, when the company acquired a permit to test of full unmanned flight operations of passenger drones in Austrian national airspace.

The permit was issued by the Austrian civil aviation authority last week, following months of negotiations between the government regulator; Ehang, who are working with their Austrian technology partner, FACC AG; and European Union aviation safety officials.

“Through the joint efforts of the Civil Aviation Authority of Austria, the EHang European team, and local partners, the Company has achieved another important regulatory breakthrough in the geographical heart of Europe, enabling more people to experience its safe, green and comfortable UAM solutions,” said Ehang in a statement. “This achievement should enable EHang to accelerate commercial operations in Europe. The trial permit and flight operations will support EHang’s growth in the European Market by demonstrating the benefits of its UAM solutions to regulators, customers, and partners.”

With urban air mobility management protocols seemingly showing signs of improvement, there looks to be a boom in the number of flying taxis in the first world, with German air taxi maker, VoloCopter also announcing imminent flights of its VoloCity taxis in Singapore. Working together with the Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), VoloCopter plans to make air taxi services a reality in the Southeast Asian city-state within the next three years.

In preparation for the launch, VoloCopter has founded VoloCopter Asia Holding and hired Hon Lung Chu as its Head of Asia Pacific in Singapore.

VoloCopter though, will start with manned air taxis, pending the launch of autonomous flights, which are subject to more tests and negotiations at the moment.

As for Ehang, the company also reached the same agreement with Norway earlier this year, where they are planning to launch air taxi services.

The company revealed that its passenger drones underwent flight tests in St Martin im Innkreis, in Upper Austria last month, under the close watch of civil aviation authorities.

“The unmanned aircraft took off for several minutes via automatic flight programming and then safely landed, despite harsh weather conditions of severe cold and high wind speed,” Ehang said.

Robert Machtlinger, CEO of FACC AG was naturally elated by the latest step towards autonomous taxis taking to the skies in Europe.

“The successful test flight of our autonomous flying taxi in Austrian airspace is the starting signal for a comprehensive test program for EHang 216,” Matchlinger said. “We are thus creating the basis for the approval of an innovative, highly flexible, and sustainable traffic and transport solution for urban centres.

“The market in the area of ​​urban air mobility holds enormous possibilities and opportunities [ranging] from search-and-rescue services to supply flights for materials in areas that are difficult to access, ambulance flights, and taxi flights in megacities. FACC and its strong network of innovative partner companies, public authorities, and universities, as well as the state of Austria, are pioneers in this area.”


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