Guangzhou envisioned as hub for ‘low-altitude economy’

The X2, a flying car developed by Xpeng Aeroht affiliated with automaker Xpeng, is displayed at the 2023 Smart China Expo in Chongqing

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Guangzhou, at the heart of the Greater Bay Area, plans to invest over 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) by 2027 in the “low-altitude economy” to boost growth. This sector includes piloted and autonomous civilian aircraft flying up to 3,000 meters, unlike commercial jetliners flying at 10,000 meters.

The investment will fund infrastructure for flying vehicles, such as airborne taxis, with over 100 takeoff and landing points and a general aviation aerodrome with a shorter runway.

The city aims to become a hub for this industry, housing companies like Xpeng AeroHT and EHang, known for their electrically powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. These battery-powered aircraft can take off, hover, and land without a runway, ideal for urban environments.

eVTOLs are expected to become popular as air taxis and private passenger vehicles, with starting prices around 1 million yuan ($138,000), making them accessible to wealthy individuals and businesses.

According to NikkeiAsia, Nasdaq-listed EHang received a production certificate in April to mass-produce its vehicles. The company plans to partner with hotels and businesses to commercialize tourism services, with inquiries from the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Despite having the necessary type and standard airworthiness certificates, EHang still needs an air operator certificate from Chinese regulators to start operations and is working on standardization with regulators.

Xpeng AeroHT is behind in certification, with its type certificate application accepted in March and expecting approval within a year and a half, according to a senior executive.

Traditionally controlled by the air force, China’s airspace policy is gradually easing as Beijing explores new growth avenues amid economic pressure. This move aligns with Guangdong’s guidance to develop the province as a “world-leading industrial hub for the low-altitude economy.”

An April report by CCID Consulting indicated that China’s low-altitude economy market exceeded 500 billion yuan in 2023, up 33.8% year-on-year, and is expected to top 1 trillion yuan by 2026. This investment reflects Guangzhou’s ambitions to lead in this innovative sector. MDT/Agencies

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