The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has published guidance on UAV airworthiness certification, aimed at establishing a risk-based UAV airworthiness management system by the end of 2019.

Five Chinese UAV companies have been authorised to develop UAV programmes to explore airworthiness standards and certification methods for the use of drones for transporting cargo, inspecting powerlines, carrying passengers and more.

EHang, a member of the CAAC management group for civil UAVs, has also been named as the first Chinese company on the programme for piloting and testing passenger Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (AAV).

UAV growth in China

The civil UAV industry has seen rapid growth in China in recent years. This goes beyond basic applications such as drone filming. The introduction of 4G/5G networks expands UAV applications further to include logistics, smart city management, emergency rescue, urban air mobility and more.

China’s President, Xi Jinping, has emphasised the importance of accelerating the legislation process for the UAV industry.

Three principles

CAAC’s latest guidance notes that China’s UAV airworthiness certification management will be guided by three principles:

  • Exploring a certification method by closely orchestrating hierarchical certifications with different levels of operational risks.
  • Exploring a certification process by extracting CAAC certification standards and regulations from industrial standards.
  • Exploring a certification mode with a more “tolerant, open and service-oriented mind” by encouraging UAV companies to jointly participate in airworthiness management through integrated information systems.

As long as UAV companies establish a qualified airworthiness system and its UAV products have met airworthiness standards, CAAC says it will issue the airworthiness certificate.

The guidance says that China’s UAV airworthiness management system based on operational risks will be established “preliminarily” by the end of 2019.

UAVs and the aviation industry

The CAAC expects that the UAV industry will eventually be on a par with the general aviation industry, or even replace some current general aviation applications in certain fields.

EHang is assisting CAAC in analysing operational risks and jointly establishing relevant standards based on real operational data.

HU Huazhi, EHang Founder & CEO, said: “The urban air mobility that EHang AAVs have explored and pioneered persistently is no longer a future concept – it is a to-be realised ‘China Innovation’.

“China and EHang have already become the forerunners in establishing a digitalised air ecosystem with the innovative applications of urban air mobility, aerial logistics, smart city management, aerial media and other commercial solutions.”

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