Chinese drone startup EHang has obtained type certification for its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, in what the company is calling the “world’s first” such approval.
EHang announced on Friday that its EH216-S aircraft had received approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), indicating the model’s airworthiness and bringing it closer to commercial operation.
The fully automated EH216-S seats two people and has a range of 30 kilometers.
On the basis of the type certification, the company “will launch commercial operations of the EH216-S unmanned eVTOLs, prioritizing safety above all,” said Hu Huazhi, founder and CEO of EHang. No date was given for the start of commercial operations of the craft, which the company envisions for tourism purposes.
Since the CAAC received the company’s application for type certification in January 2021, tests of the vehicle’s structural strength, crashworthiness and various systems were conducted at multiple locations in China. The vehicle cleared more than 500 test items and completed more than 40,000 test flights, according to the company.
EHang, which was founded in 2014 and unveiled its eVTOL craft in 2016, leads a crowded field in China of automakers and other startups trying to break into the emerging market for fliers.
Outside China, Toyota Motor-backed U.S. company Joby Aviation received approval from U.S. aviation authorities in late June for test flights of its eVTOL aircraft. Japanese companies also in the race include Honda and SkyDrive, which is collaborating with Suzuki Motor on the production of its eVTOL vehicle’s body.