A Chinese tech company will begin using drone helicopters to deliver bulky goods to residents’ houses after receiving official permission from the Chinese aviation authority to test the service in a major step to pilotless passenger transport.
The company has obtained approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to use its drones in for transporting heavy-lifting merchandise, according to a statement released on 27 May.
The pilotless ‘air taxis’ can carry up to 150 kilograms of goods per flight and send them to remote and mountainous areas, according to their manufacturer.
EHang, a Guangzhou-based tech firm, claims that their drones are the world’s first electric passenger-carrying autonomous aerial vehicles. The unmanned vehicle was said to have the capacity to seat two passengers and can fly up to 150 kilometres per hour.
In the trial, the large drones will be tasked to transport products “between ground and hilltop and between shore and islands” in the Chinese city of Taizhou during trial runs. With the accumulated operating data and experience from the trial, EHang expects to expand to other regions in China as the program builds.
The ‘flying-taxi’ demonstrated its first test flight for the first time in Europe in April last year. Austrian aerospace company FACC and its Chinese partner AVIC flew their drone above the pitch at Vienna’s Generali Arena. Further trials were completed in January, the company conducted its first trial flight of EHang 216 in the US after receiving flying approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
China has yet to grant approvals for drones to carry passengers. But the permission for EHang’s air cargo services is considered as major progress.
The news comes as China is discovering new ways to deliver merchandise to the country’s remote areas following the booming e-commerce industry.
Residents who live in rural villages across China are now able to sell and buy products online with the help of live-streaming and shopping apps.
EHang expects it will begin flying passengers first in Dubai, where he company performed its first test flight above the city in 2017.
EHang has also reportedly carried out thousands of test flights in China that included passengers.