EHang this week flew its EH 216 autonomous eVTOL aircraft for the first time in Japan. The Chinese company said that it conducted the trial flights under a special permit from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Tourism (MILT) with support from the Okayama Kurashiki Mizushima Aero & Space Industry Cluster Study Group (MASC).
One of the flights in the two-seat, all-electric aircraft was made at the “Leading the Revolution of Urban Air Mobility” event during the first few days of June at the Kasaoka Air Station in Okayama prefecture. The manufacturer organized the flight in conjunction with the MASC. The two organizations say they intend to collaborate in work on possible eVTOL aircraft use cases in Japan.
During the event in Okayama, Sugihara Yohei—secretary to Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Kato Katsunobu—pledged government support for the development of advanced air mobility services. “As the government, we will actively improve aviation regulations while supporting private enterprises in a timely and appropriate manner,” he said.
Political leaders representing Okayama prefecture, which is in the west of the country, as well as the cities of Kurashiki and Kasaoka attended the event. Hashimoto Gaku, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, also sent positive signals about the new sector’s potential. “I am very pleased that Japan’s first trial flight of a flying car took place in Okayama,” he commented. “We have high expectations for flying cars as a new generation for the growth industries. We look forward to developing flying cars as social services through public-private cooperation.”
In 2018, the Japanese government established the Public-Private Council for Air Transportation Revolution and published a roadmap policy document to set out its objectives for the use of eVTOL aircraft. The council has been tasked with launching air services for carrying people and goods by 2023 in rural and urban areas. Under the terms of this policy, the Civil Aviation Bureau of MILT is in charge of establishing regulatory structures for aircraft type and airworthiness requirements, as well as for qualifying pilots.