Advanced Air Mobility Market Intelligence

Greater China Profiles

by Global Sky Team

Greater China Profiles

The development of UAM in China should go hand-in-hand with the opening of the country’s low-altitude airspace, which is heavily controlled by the Air Force. This has had a big impact on the growth of general aviation and helicopter operations within the country, with much of China’s airspace below 10,000ft off limits for operations. However, there are signs that this is changing, with the government taking an active role in promoting general aviation as a growth industry, and it has launched small scale airspace trails in different provinces. These include Hunan, Jiangxi and Anhui, which have been trialing intra-provincial integrated management of low-altitude airspace, which, if successful, will be used as a future airspace model for UAM operations.

Mainland China began developing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) long before companies began working on eVTOL projects, which was driven by federal and provincial governments launching a series of policies to encourage the use of UAVs in agriculture, logistic, and emergency rescue. As early as 2018, Hubei Provincial government allocated ten million yuan (US$1.5 million) from a subsidy fund for agriculture machinery to subsidize the acquisition of drones used to protect certain species of plants. In the same year, Shenzhen simplified the application and approval process for drones used in military, anti-terrorism, rescue, and some civil uses.

A year later in 2019, the Beijing Municipal Government issued “the Action Plan for Innovation and Development of Beijing Robotic Industry (2019-2022)” to encourage the development of intelligent warehouse and logistic technology. It is envisioned that industrial drones will be widely used in intelligent warehousing, driven by intelligent manufacturing and innovative strategies. The provincial government of Guangdong issued “the Action Plan for Cultivating Strategic Emerging Industrial Cluster of Intelligent Robots in Guangdong (2021-2025)” and proposed that the operating revenue of intelligent robotic industry would reach 80 billion yuan (US$12.6 billion) by 2025, which includes 50 billion yuan (US$7.9 billion) for the UAV industry.

UAM is still in the early stages of development and countries around the world are still in the exploratory stage when it comes to setting policies. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is accelerating the review of its CCAR-23 regulation, with a view to revising it to become applicable to the current development of eVTOL and UAM projects. The CCAR-23 “Airworthiness Regulations for Normal Aircraft (Draft of Comment)” has been released, addressing the development and public demand for electric general-purpose aircraft. The revised version added “Chapter H Supplementary Requirements for Electric Aircraft” supplementing the power unit, thrust control and energy storage of electric aircraft. Manufacturers and autonomous flight system developers are coordinating with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to formulate the latest airworthiness standards. Chinese regulators are prioritizing the introduction of regulations for manned eVTOLs before unmanned ones.

To strengthen the standardized management of drivers (controllers, operators, and pilots) for civil UAVs, the CAAC published “the Regulation for Civil UAV Drivers”.

Major OEMs

There are several manufacturers based in Greater China. EHang was the first OEM to obtain a logistic trial operation license for its EH216, which is the world’s first autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV).

  • AutoFlight
  • EHang
  • Geely
  • TCab Tech
  • XPeng HT Aero
  • MuYu Aero
  • Pantuo Aviation
  • Volant Aerotech

As well as working closely with the CAAC to gain airworthiness certificates, the manufacturers are also assisting the CAAC with setting the policies and standards that need to be put in place to ensure the safe operation of aerial vehicles.

Yangtze Delta

The Yangtze Delta, the area where the Yangtze River flows into the East China Sea, consists of 26 cities including Shanghai, nine cities from Jiangsu, eight from Zhejiang, and eight from Anhui.

Due to its unique geographic location and economic policies, the Yangtze Delta accounted for 24.5% of Mainland China’s GDP in first three quarters of 2021. The area sees on average between 12 to 14 hours of daylight every day, but due to its relative humidity, visibility is frequently below 2km during Autumn and Winter mornings.

Traffic

According to the Ministry of Transport’s “Integrated Planning and Development of Transportation Quality in the Yangtze Delta”, the traffic network for intercity connections is limited between some cities. From a report published by the CAUP Tongji University in 2021, intercity commuting had increased in the three years prior to the report, with commutes between Shanghai and the surrounding cities increasing to 76.6 thousand people annually. Although there are high-speed rail and metro links in place, Shanghai and Nanjing, both located in the Yangtze Delta, were the fifth and ninth most congested cities in Mainland China in 2020.

In addition, the report also indicated that there is an imbalance in usage between ports and airports, a lack of integration between different transportation methods, and the need to strengthen the functionality of Shanghai International Shipping Center. It is looking to accelerate the development of general aviation within the Yangtze Delta region, by establishing an integrated general aviation demonstration zone in Nanjing, Ningbo, Shaoxing, and Wuhu, and optimizing the air transportation network within the area. The Ministry of Transport of PRC is tasked with setting up a “one-hour metropolitan commute area”.

Potential Routes

Taking a trip from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) takes about 90 minutes by metro, and 75 minutes by car. TCab Tech says that it will only take 16 minutes for an eVTOL to fly between the two airports.

From the Annual Traffic Report in Major Chinese Cities 2021, the route between Suzhou to Shanghai is the third busiest car route. Using the route between Suzhou Railway Station to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station as an example, it takes about 24 minutes by high-speed train and 80 minutes by car. If UAM infrastructure can be built in nearby areas, the trip can be reduced to just 20 minutes.

Infrastructure

There are currently 23 airports in the Yangtze Delta, and the government is planning to increase this to 30 by the end of 2035. This implies that there will be one airport per 12,000-kilometer-square.

Shanghai, built its first ever vertiport in 2006 and established a medical flight team in 2016. This vertiport has been used for transporting patients between cities in the Yangtze Delta since 2019. Other cities in the Yangtze Delta like Ningbo, Zhejiang and Zhenjiang have initiated air taxi services in 2020.

Operators

There are several potential UAM operators in the Yangtze Delta region:

  •  Jiangsu Huayu GA
  • Jiangsu Jinheng GA Tech
  • Jiangsu Ningxiang
  • Jiangsu Shenghao GA
  • Runyang GA
  • Shanghai Xinkong
  • Shanghai Skyway GA
  • Wenzhou Xinglong GA
  • Zhejiang Desheng GA

Greater Bay Area

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) comprise of the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, and nine cities in Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta, namely, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing. The area sees on average 11 hours of light per day.

According to the latest figures provided by the Guangdong Province, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (SARG), and the Macao SARG, the total population in the Greater Bay Area is over 86 million. The total GDP of the Greater Bay Area was $1668.8 billion in USD in 2020 which accounted for 10.59% of Greater China’s GDP that year. The economic and technology integration between these cities and special administrative region has fostered the development of a range of internationally competitive industries and clusters in the Greater Bay Area.

Traffic

As stated in the Urban Transportation Report publish by Baidu, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Foshan and Shenzhen were ranked as the 6th, 18th, 19th, and 21st most congested cities in China respectively. Although traffic congestion in the Greater Bay Area seems to be less of a concern compared to the Yangtze Delta, residents in the Greater Bay Area are engaged in cross-city commutes or travel. With high housing prices in Shenzhen, some people prefer to live in neighboring cities, like Dongguan and Huizhou, but still work in Shenzhen. Aside from daily commuting, the nature of the government’s scheme to link the cities in the Greater Bay Area into an integrated economic and business hub further increases the demand for efficient travel. Crosscity high-speed rail links are in place for most Greater Bay cities where the duration of the trip usually last around an hour or two; however, stations for high-speed rail are usually located in remote areas. This suggests that there is good potential for the UAM market.

Potential Routes

Taking a trip from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) takes about 90 minutes by metro, 75 minutes by car. TCab Tech says that it will only take 16 minutes for an eVTOL to fly between the two airports.

From the Annual Traffic Report in Major Chinese Cities 2021, the route between Suzhou to Shanghai is the third busiest car route. Using the route between Suzhou Railway Station to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station as an example, it takes about 24 minutes by high-speed train and 80 minutes by car. If UAM infrastructure can be built in nearby areas, the trip can be reduced to just 20 minutes.

Infrastructure

The Integrated Transportation System’s 14th Five-Year Plan for Guangdong outlined provincial government support for the development of “Air Taxi” operations in cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen as advanced commuting methods Furthermore, the Plan also encourages the development and application of unmanned aerial vehicles. There are existing helicopter routes connecting the Bao’an International Airport, the Zhuhai Jiuzhou Airport, and the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport to downtown Shenzhen. Shenzhen continues to construct vertipads in scenic areas, its central business district, and Class A buildings. Cities that already have adequate helipads in place already have the basic infrastructure needed to support UAM operations.

Operators

  • HELI-EASTERN

HELI-EASTERN is a major low-altitude general aviation carrier and helicopter service provider in the Greater Bay Area. It has also been designated by the CAAC and the Shenzhen Municipal Government as a pilot unit for low-altitude aviation reforms in China. The company signed a strategic agreement with EHang in 2021 and held UAM Seminar for the Greater Bay Area. The comprehensive strategic collaboration is committed to innovating new eVTOLs and aerial vehicles, designing and building digital airspace management systems, and providing an ecofriendly, low noise, and safe passenger experience.

There are several potential UAM operators in the Greater Bay Area:

  • Astro Air
  • China Southern GA
  • COHC
  • Guangdong Juxiang GA
  • Suilian Heli GA

The Chinese government continues to support the UAM industry by setting appropriate standards, as well as working with major OEMs to ensure safe operations. Potential operators are looking forward to cooperating with local governments to establish infrastructure to support the UAM industry.

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