EHang has announced the launch of its urban air mobility services with recently disclosed strategic partner Greenland Hong Kong Holdings Limited. The new services, which will be conducted firstly on a trial basis, include an aerial sightseeing program and aerial media shows. Both of these services will be deployed in the Greenland Hong Kong Forest Lake project located in Zhaoqing, a popular tour destination city in Guangdong, China. EHang’s press release stated that they intend to work jointly with Greenland Hong Kong over time to offer aerial tourism services using EH216 AAVs in additional cities.
The first stage of the partnership is a base for EH216 operations in Forest Lake, which will be independently run by EHang. This base will serve as the launch point for aerial sightseeing services to passengers. Forest Lake is located close to the new Zhaoqing-Pearl River Delta-Hub Airport, still under construction. The area offers abundant tourism attractions, including 7 natural lakes and wetlands covering 3 million square meters.
EHang claims that aerial sightseeing has strong demand and huge market potential relative to urban aerial mobility. In early 2017, the Chinese Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Civil Aviation Administration jointly issued “Suggestions on Promoting the Integrated Development of Transportation and Tourism”. This directive supported the development of aerial sightseeing by encouraging key tourist cities and eligible scenic spots to carry out pilot programs for civil aviation tourism as well as to open low-altitude flight routes. Low-altitude tourism in China could reach 4.2 billion passengers in coming years, leading to a market size of RMB58.5 billion, according to forecasts from the China Air Transport Association.
Why it’s important: EHang’s quoted advantages of their EH216 autonomous aerial vehicles when compared to conventional single-propeller helicopters include higher safety levels, lower noise levels, lower costs, and zero emissions during operation. If these advantages are supplanted by operational data that supports their validity, vehicles such as EH216 AAVs have the potential to become more widely used for low-altitude aerial sightseeing applications and more in the near future.