The autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) developer EHang will collaborate with Vodafone to build out an urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem first in Germany and then Europe-wide.
Under a strategic partnership announced on Oct. 18, Vodafone will equip all EHang AAVs operating in Europe with Vodafone SIM cards, making the telecoms company EHang’s exclusive connectivity partner in the region. EHang will become Vodafone’s exclusive UAM partner.
Through the Vodafone network, individual passenger and logistics AAVs will be able to communicate with the command-and-control centers that regulate their operations as well as with each other, enabling safer and more efficient transportation through urban air space, the companies said.
“Every AAV requires digital connectivity to ensure the coordination of air traffic, so fast networks like 5G are critical to enabling sustainable pilotless air travel and freight delivery systems,” stated EHang founder Hu Huazhi in a press release. “5G is also a key infrastructure component for the commercial deployment of AAVs, since it enables take-offs and landings that are precisely controlled within centimeters.”
EHang and Vodafone intend to collaborate on AAV test flights once the regulatory framework allows. They will also work together on mobility platform services to enable payments, support identity verification, and provide digital and streaming content to AAV passengers in flight.
“Autonomous air taxis will enable increased mobility options for all of us in the future,” said Vodafone CEO Hannes Ametsreiter. “They will complement existing modes of transportation but allow us to fly above traffic jams if needed.”
EHang is based in Guangzhou, China. The company has already delivered two batches of its “passenger-grade” EHang 216 eVTOL aircraft to customers in Asia, Europe, and North America, for applications including tourism and organ delivery as well as general transport.