EHang's EH216 eVTOL Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) and its Falcon logistics drone have completed Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight trials as part of the European Union’s GOF 2.0 Integrated Urban Airspace Validation (GOF 2.0) program in Estonia. The Chinese manufacturer is using the flights to evaluate the use of the autonomous, all-electric vehicles for carrying passengers to and from airports and also for parcel deliveries.
The project aims to demonstrate the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles and autonomous air taxis into the air traffic management (ATM) system used for manned aircraft, as well as the so-called U-Space operations for autonomous and remotely piloted vehicles. The Estonian Transport Administration issued a special permit to EHang for trial flights in designated Estonian airspace until the end of 2021.
The EH216 is the first passenger-grade autonomous eVTOL to have conducted BVLOS trial flights in Estonian airspace. During the live trials, the EHang 216 flew with no passengers from Tartu Airport to the Estonian Aviation Museum, which is just five miles away. The Falcon drone made a parcel delivery from the airport to a nearby cargo distribution hub.
The flights mark the start of the first wave of trials in the two-year GOF 2.0 project. They are intended to demonstrate how manned and unmanned aviation can enter and leave various types of airspace, such as controlled/uncontrolled airspace and U-space airspace.
To date, EHang has conducted multiple trials and demonstration flights of its passenger-grade AAVs in 10 countries across Asia, Europe, and North America. In China, aviation regulators have allowed the company to operate with passengers on board, and this has also been permitted in locations including South Korea and Japan.
EHang said it will continue involvement in the GOF 2.0 program and plans to conduct more trial flights in Europe using existing ATM and U-space services and systems. The company described the trials as “an important enabler” for the further development of the unmanned aerial vehicle market, meant to deliver the technical components (services, software, competencies, practices) required to cost-efficiently operate autonomous and semi-autonomous aerial vehicles BVLOS in urban low-level shared airspace.