On February 24, 2021, China’s State Council issued guidelines for the development of a comprehensive transport network by 2035. The “Guidelines of the National Comprehensive Transportation Network Plan” outlined the government’s strategic plan for developing its national and international transport links including studying “the layout of comprehensive general-purpose airports, ease general aviation activities at busy airports, develop urban helicopter transportation services, and build a rapid air transportation network within urban agglomerations.”
In terms urban air mobility there were two keynote areas of focus: developing intra-urban transport systems and improving network connections in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
“By 2035, a modern and high-quality national comprehensive three-dimensional transportation network that is convenient and smooth, economical, efficient, green, intensive, intelligent, advanced, safe and reliable will be basically built, to achieve international and domestic interconnection, three-dimensional smooth access to major cities across the country, and effective coverage of county-level nodes, providing strong support. "National 123 Travel Traffic Circle" (1-hour commute in metropolitan areas, 2-hour access to urban agglomerations, 3-hour coverage of major cities across the country) and "Global 123 Express Cargo Logistics Circle" (1-day domestic delivery, 2-day delivery to neighboring countries, 3-day delivery to major cities around the world). The quality, intelligence and greenness of transportation infrastructure ranks among the top in the world. Transportation fully meets the people's ever-growing needs for a better life, effectively safeguards national security, and supports my country's basic realization of socialist modernization.”
This strategy was underlined in the 14th Five Year Plan published by the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) on 8 June 2022. The Sohu news service carries a question-and-answer story with an unnamed CAAC official following the release of this plan The following text is an edited version of interview answers.
• In terms of UAV logistics and distribution, we will vigorously support the development of UAV logistics and distribution, open up the “trunk, branch and end” network of aviation logistics, and promote the organic integration of UAVs into the county and rural three-level logistics network system and the modernization of agriculture and rural areas . In particular, the plan will develop the low-altitude UAV logistics distribution system in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and explore the construction of a UAV low-altitude logistics distribution route network.
• In addition, in terms of promoting cross-border integration, it is specifically mentioned to encourage the development of new types of aircraft such as manned and unmanned aircraft, which will drive the rapid development of urban air traffic.
• The plan does not directly mention the electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle eVTOL, but Guangzhou’s EHang is the first pilot unit of manned unmanned aerial vehicles. The “Special Conditions for EH216-S Unmanned Aircraft System” (SC-21-002) issued by the Airworthiness Department of the Civil Aviation Administration in February this year stated that the aircraft of the EH216-S unmanned aircraft system…is fully automated and is expected to fly in low-altitude isolated airspace, primarily for commercial passenger-carrying operations in an urban air mobility UAM environment.
• The plan also mentions: “Optimize airworthiness certification. In view of the key application needs in passenger- carrying , logistics, plant protection and other fields, speed up the airworthiness certification and standard output of passenger-carrying, manned and medium-to-large logistics and distribution drones , and optimize the certification procedures. Reduce pre-examination reviews and strengthen interim and post-event supervision.
• The plan specifically has the content of promoting the construction of the legal system, which mentions: insist on promoting development and preventing risks, carry out the construction of drone regulations, classification management methods, comprehensive management platforms, guidance mechanisms, etc., and actively cooperate with and promote the introduction of UAVs. The Provisional Regulations on Aircraft Flight Management, formulate the Regulations on the Safe Operation of Civil Unmanned Aircraft and supporting normative documents, and clarify the requirements for the registration, airworthiness management, personnel qualifications, air traffic control operations, and market operations of drones
• The plan also mentions support for new trials, helping qualified regions to accelerate the construction and operation of unmanned aviation test bases, carry out operational concepts, risk assessments, technical tests and verification flights in different scenarios, and summarize safe operation standards for specific scenarios in cities, islands and plateaus Specifications to support the supervision and service of unmanned aerial activities.
• There will be innovations in operational management. Support pilot applications of drones for logistics and distribution, carrying passengers, explore supervision and service models that conform to the characteristics of unmanned aviation, and establish an operation management system that traces the entire process of personnel, aircraft, operation permits and operation records. Improve and promote operational safety risk assessment tools suitable for China’s needs, and further build a digital supervision service platform with UTM at the core.
• The plan will strengthen the construction of relevant systems for UAV airworthiness management, promote the appointment representative system, improve the UAV airworthiness management model based on operational risks, and strengthen the main responsibility of UAV design and manufacturing enterprises. Support local governments to implement public safety supervision of drones and increase the investigation and punishment of illegal flying of drones. Support associations and other social organizations to guide and urge various entities in the industry to produce, operate, and use drones in accordance with the law.
• In terms of support measures, the plan mentioned that based on the technical requirements of UAV airworthiness verification based on operational risks, the layout and construction of China’s civil aviation civil UAV technology research platform. Research and promote the release of key technology application policies such as remote identification, perception and avoidance, 5G, and Beidou navigation, and strengthen the internationalization of standards.
In April 2021, EHang announced the “100 Air Mobility Routes Initiative” to open 100 aerial traffic routes, focusing on Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and gradually expanding to other parts of China( see “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” entry). EHang and its partners have carried out aerial tours and short distance air traffic trial operations from operating points in Guangzhou, Hezhou, Shenzhen, Zhaoqing, Sanya and other cities in China.