An electric aircraft top view. Ride-hailing services are taking to the skies, as companies like Joby Aviation develop new all-electric options. Industries are increasingly approaching NREL for detailed guidance on how the service could impact the environment. Photo from Joby Aviation

1st Autonomous, Electric Aircraft In World To Get Approval For Commercial Flights

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Cynthia just reported yesterday on a couple of eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft milestones. We’ve got two more to report on as well — one in China and one in the USA. I’ll start with the story from China.

Commercial EHang Flights Now Approved in China!

EHang Vertiport
EHang & GZDG Vertiport. Image courtesy of EHang

An EHang eVTOL aircraft, the EH216-S, has just been approved for commercial flights by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). “This demonstrates that the EH216-S’s model design fully complies with CAAC’s safety standards and airworthiness requirements, and that the EH216-S is qualified for conducting passenger-carrying UAV commercial operations,” the company writes.

“Since CAAC formally accepted EHang’s EH216-S TC application in January 2021, the EHang team worked closely with CAAC and its expert team towards validating and verifying the aircraft’s innovative cutting-edge technologies. After more than 1,000 days and nights of persistent efforts, they overcame all kinds of difficulties and challenges to successfully complete all type certification objectives, proving that EHang is fully capable of independently designing, developing, and manufacturing mature unmanned eVTOL products.”

This is the first such approval anywhere in the world.

And the EH216-S is not only electric — it’s also autonomous.

Clearly, EHang is blazing a trail in this industry. It had to comply not only with traditional aircraft rules and regulations, but also had to help form new ones due to the innovative nature of the aircraft. “The EH216-S stands as a pioneering technological and product innovation with significant differences from conventional aircraft in key areas including technical architecture, configuration, performance, functionality, operational mode and flight environment. For the EH216-S type certification, CAAC and EHang upheld conventional century-old aviation principles alongside an innovation-centric approach, which involved formulating specific certification basis and means of compliance tailored to the EH216-S’s distinctive technical features, to conduct the type certification work.”

Here are some other key facts and figures regarding the EH216-S:

  • Can carry two passengers 20 miles
  • 60 mph cruising speed
  • 81 mph full-tilt speed
  • 17 kWh battery
  • 16 propellers powered by 16 different electric motors.

Notably, earlier this year, in February, the EH216 completed its first autonomous, passenger-carrying flight demonstration in Japan. Stay tuned to find out when it is also approved for commercial flights in Japan!

Is EHang now the global leader in the burgeoning eVTOL industry?

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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