Caixin
Jan 12, 2021 05:25 AM
BUSINESS & TECH

Eastern General Aviation Embraces Pilotless Flying Cars to Cut Costs

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What’s new: Shenzhen Eastern General Aviation Co. is willing to use pilotless flying cars if manufacturers launch mature products, the Greater Bay Area rescue and business aviation provider said.

Eastern General Aviation, serving China’s Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau area, is among several commercial aviation providers embracing the prospect of the nascent technology.

An Airbus 135 helicopter costs about 60 million yuan ($9.3 million), and a pilot costs about 1 million yuan a year plus several hundred thousand yuan per person in annual ground crew costs, Zhao Qi, chairman of the company, told Caixin. If pilotless flying cars can replace helicopters, the cost of urban air transport could be drastically reduced, he said.

Blade Urban Air Mobility Inc., a New York-based air charter broker platform, also is betting on the future of flying cars.

The background: The market for autonomous urban aircraft should continue to mature this decade, soaring to $1.5 trillion globally by 2040, according to a Morgan Stanley Research study.

Startups and major auto and airplane makers are developing them, including Boeing, Hyundai, Airbus, Toyota and Uber.

In October, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said it established 13 unmanned civil aviation experimental zones to encourage development of autonomous aircraft.

EHang, a Guangzhou-based developer of autonomous aerial vehicles, has been conducting trial operations with its two-seat autonomous aerial vehicle in several of these experimental zones.

Quick Takes are condensed versions of China-related stories for fast news you can use. To read the full story in Chinese, click here.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com).

Related: EHang to Pilot Self-Flying Vehicle Sightseeing Trips in South China City

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