Extensive demonstration flights with its EH216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle have allowed EHang to make rapid progress toward type certification for the two-seat eVTOL vehicle, the Chinese manufacturer said today while reporting financial results for 2021's third quarter. The company said it is working to meet the means of compliance established by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
As of November 30, EHang said, it had completed more than 20,000 flights with the autonomous EH216, with demonstrations conducted in China and 10 other countries. The most recent international demonstration was on November 26 in the Indonesian resort of Bali, conducted with its local partner Prestige. The flight was witnessed by Indonesian officials, including Bambang Soesatyo, chairman of the Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly, who expressed support for the aircraft’s potential role in the Southeast Asian country’s transportation system across multiple islands.
EHang also has been stepping up its 100 Air Mobility Routes Initiative as part of its efforts to pave the way for the start of commercial services once the EH216 is certified. The project has focused on developing the template for an air mobility operating system, including route planning, flight operations, safety management, and regulatory compliance, as well as sales and marketing functions, and the establishment of a digital platform that it said would be open to multiple users.
The company said it has set up a group of around 50 stakeholders to contribute to the initiative, including prospective operators such as Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express, as well as the highways group Shenzhen Expressway. Trials at seven Chinese locations, including Guangzhou, Hezhou, Shenzhen, Zhaoqing, and Sanya, have been chosen and so far around 2,800 flights have been conducted at these locations.
Since mid-November, EHang has been working on plans for sightseeing flights to be conducted from an oceanfront vertiport at Maluan Hill in Shenzhen in partnership with rotorcraft operator Heli-Eastern. It plans to start a trial with six daily flights and estimates that as many as 30,000 seats per year could be sold on tourism flights out of this location alone, representing 15,000 flights at an average rate of 40 per day.
CAAC has continued to allow operational flight trials to be conducted as part of the certification process. This week the agency's Department for Aircraft Airworthiness Certification issued an invitation for public comment on its draft special conditions for type certification of the EH216.
During a December 2 call for financial analysts, EHang founder, chairman, and CEO Huazhi Hu confirmed that the company’s longer-range VT-30 eVTOL model is engaged in tests flights. He said that all systems and components for the new member of its Autonomous Aerial Vehicle family have been produced by the company itself. The two-seat VT-30 is expected to have a range of 300 km (186 miles), which is significantly farther than the EH216’s limit of just 35 km (22 miles).
For the third quarter ending on September 30, EHang reported revenues of RMB 13 million ($2 million), representing a 6.6 percent increase on the second quarter. Its operating loss, as it continues to invest in bringing aircraft into commercial operations, remained stable at RMB 73.3 million ($11.4 million). The company said that it logged eight sales of the EH216 in the third quarter, compared with three in the previous period.
Chief strategy officer Edward Xu said that the new partnership with Heli-Eastern is part of a wider strategy to commercialize its aircraft and operating model in alliance with established operators. He indicated that the so-called Greater Bay Area—encompassing the Hong Kong and Macau regions and cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai—is a priority market for EHang’s planned urban air mobility services.
The company is also working on a firefighting version of the aircraft called the EH216F, and this has been evaluated by Chinese emergency response agencies. However, the company now accepts that the procurement timeline for this model could prove to be longer than anticipated, and this was cited as one reason for a reduction in projected year-end revenue forecasts for 2021 of between RMB 50 and 60 million.