(Refiled to standardize RICS format in 7th paragraph.)
Oct 13 (Reuters) – Chinese drone maker EHang Holdings gained safety approval certification from China’s aviation authority, bringing its unmanned passenger copters one step closer to commercial use, the Guangzhou-based company announced on Friday.
The ‘type certification’ from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is for EHang’s 216-S model, a 16-rotor drone that can carry two passengers at speeds of 130 kilometres an hour at a max range of 30 kilometres.
An individual vehicle costs 2.16 million yuan ($296,000).
It is the first such electronic vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle to receive type certification from the (CAAC), EHang said, though the company still needs an operation permit before commercial activities can begin.
Shares of the NASDAQ-listed company have risen 80% so far this year to $17.10, though they remain far below their December 2020 peak of $124.09, before a damning report from an investment research firm caused a precipitous drop in value.
EHang said it is still exploring whether to work with tourism operator customers as either a product provider or also as a service provider, also operating the vehicles.
Well-established aviation and automotive industry players like Boeing, Embraer, Airbus, United Airlines, Toyota Motor Corp and Stellantis are among the companies pouring money into the nascent eVTOL sector.
But regulatory requirements have been one of the thorniest issues for the sector given strict safety requirements, especially for operating in dense urban environments, as well as noise and pollution concerns.
In China, AutoFlight and XPeng Inc are also developing vehicles in the eVTOL space. (Reporting by David Kirton; editing by David Evans & Simon Cameron-Moore)