EHang says it has received its first order for the VT-30 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, with Japan’s Okayama Kurashiki Mizushima Aero & Space Industry Cluster Study Group (MASC) committing to exploring use cases for the two-seat eVTOL aircraft, as well as the Chinese manufacturer’s EH216 model. Today’s announcement did not specify how many VT-30s MASC intends to purchase or when deliveries will be made.
Over the past six months, with MASC’s support, EHang has conducted a series of demonstration flights with the EH216 in the Japanese cities of Fukushima and Okayama. The companies are jointly evaluating possible passenger services in the country, as well as logistics and emergency medical applications.
The most recent display on December 23 was at the Kasaoka Air Station in Okayama and involved the eVTOL vehicle carrying a 60 kg (132 pound) payload. The demonstration was attended by members of Japan’s parliament and local chambers of commerce. Local officials in Fukushima have been laying plans for commercial operations to begin from 2023, and have made the city’s Robot Test Field available for eVTOL development.
According to Narisawa Koichi, an official with the Civil Aviation Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the agency intends to publish flight test guidelines to be used by eVTOL aircraft manufacturers, including EHang. “The AAVs have always been expected to be used in the scenarios of travel on outlying islands and sparsely populated areas,” he commented while acknowledging EHang’s intention to meet these requirements.
In May, EHang unveiled the VT-30 as a longer-range alternative to the EH216, which can only fly routes of up to around 22 miles. Images of the VT-30 design show a small oval-shaped cabin with a single pusher propeller at the rear for cruise flight, a fixed-wing with winglets and eight sets of electric motors and vertical-lift propellers fitted to a pair of parallel booms connecting the wing to a bow-shaped tail with a lifting rudder surface. EHang has not provided any details about the composition of the all-electric propulsion system that it says will support a range of up to 300 km (187 miles) or 100 minutes flight time.
Also on December 23, the Civil Aviation Administration of China published draft regulations on civil unmanned aircraft operations, including licensing of remote pilots. The proposals, which could support autonomous passenger-carrying eVTOL operations like those planned by EHang are open for public consultation through January 10.
EHang has previously reported several hundred sales of its EH216 vehicle with customers in multiple countries, including China. In some cases, it appears that the customers will act as distributors for the aircraft rather being aircraft operators.