SFC Markets and Finance|High-Quality Development in Guangdong: Exploring the Sky

2024年05月15日 21:45   21世纪经济报道 21财经APP   杨雨莱,李依农

南方财经全媒体记者 杨雨莱 李依农 广州报道

When deploying "new quality productive forces" in this year’s Guangdong Government Work Report, it specifically proposed to "build a low-altitude economic and industrial highland in the Greater Bay Area". It is predicted that by the end of the "14th Five-Year Plan", the comprehensive contribution value of China's low-altitude economy to the national economy will reach 3-5 trillion yuan. As a strategic emerging industry, what are the specific application scenarios of low-altitude economy? From the vision to the landing, what challenges will it face, and how will it change our lives? Please follow the 2024 "High-quality Development Research Tour" to further explore the low-altitude economy.

Huazhi Hu, Founder and CEO of EHang Intelligent

Reducing traveling time will be one major function

Currently, we are working with cities like Hefei, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen to promote model city construction. Within the city, at intervals of, for example, 4, 9, or 25 square kilometers, or 5, 3, or 2 kilometers, we plan to build takeoff and landing points. These takeoff and landing stations will be similar to bus stops.

The entire organization and system will operate the flights in a point-to-point manner. Each station will have predetermined flights, unlike cars in which we can change directions freely. This random flight method features a fully point-to-point configuration with straight-line flights, which can achieve much higher efficiency than cars.

For example, it currently takes around 45 minutes to drive from here to downtown Guangzhou, but the straight-line distance is only 9.8 kilometers. Our aircraft can fly at a speed of nearly 2 kilometers per minute, reaching Zhujiang New Town in just a few minutes. This is a major scenario for low-altitude air traffic nowadays.

Jonathan Wang, Chief Operating Officer of EHang Intelligent

Supportive environment in the Greater Bay Area

In fact, it’s not just Guangzhou but the entire Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area that has many supportive policies and environmental support for the development of high-tech and electronics industries. The environment is a vital factor, meaning the aggregation of enterprises within the industry is of great importance.

We all know that Guangzhou and Shenzhen are the cradles of many enterprises in the field of electronics and technology, including those specializing in low-altitude aircraft, eVTOL, and drones. Not only EHang but also Xpeng and DJI are located here. The industry environment is important because enterprises can gather, which is beneficial in terms of supply chain, factory construction, and worker proficiency. The Greater Bay Area has provided us with great assistance from the perspectives of government support and industry environment.

EHang achieved three certifications for safety

Why is EHang the only aircraft enterprise in the world to obtain the three certificates, namely Type Certificate, Standard Airworthiness Certificate, and Production Certificate? This is crucial because obtaining the three certificates signifies that the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s approval process has verified that our aircraft is safe.

The whole verification process is very complex, taking us three years and incurring high costs. During this process, a total of 12 expert groups completed dozens of tests. Every security measure must be proven in practice.

For example, there is a test on propeller dead stick to determine how many propellers can stop working when our aircraft can still fly safely. We must stop the propellers in the air for verification rather than theoretically calculating the number. I have confidence that our aircraft can safely land even if half of the propellers stop working, greatly exceeding the requirements of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The whole verification process conducted by the Civil Aviation Administration is helping to verify that the aircraft is safe.

The future potential of low-altitude air traffic is immense

I think this change is quite significant because the air offers almost unlimited capacity. With the rise and development of the low altitude economy and the opening of low altitude airspace, whether at an altitude of 100 meters, 300 meters, or even 1000 meters, we will have corresponding aircraft and low altitude aviation forms. In this context, the capacity of the sky is indeed unlimited. The three-dimensional space of the air is completely different from the two-dimensional space of the ground. Therefore, from a future perspective, the traffic efficiency and capacity of air transportation will significantly surpass those of ground transportation.

Zhao Deli, Founder and president of XPENG AEROHT 

Land-based aircraft carrier is expected to be mass produced 

Technologically speaking, for the flying car technology, we have been dedicated to it since 2013, for over 10 years. In the early stages, from powered flight control to lightweight design, we have been through many experiments, countless tests. Then, in 2022, we successfully operated a two-ton flying car. But the mass production of that model will be delayed. We will mass produce the land-based aircraft carrier first. Its launch event will be held in November, 2024, and start receiving global pre-orders. We plan to manufacture 50 prototypes of this product this year, and conduct road and flight tests across the country. After that, we will begin delivering them by the end of 2025.

A land-based aircraft carrier is like storing a manned aircraft in the trunk of a car, with a seating capacity for two people. In the future, during self-driving trips, we don't have to carry a drone like we used to do. We used to drive to a location, launch the drone, and record the good views of our country. After that, we took a road trip, and the car was equipped with a small plane, which could carry two people to fly with us, and the road trip could be accompanied with the aircraft all the way.

We have achieved ultra-low-altitude parachute-opening. Before XPENG developed the whole aircraft parachute, we noticed that the technology abroad required a minimum altitude of 200 meters for parachute opening. And we have made it to 50 meters. We have achieved parachute-opening at an altitude of 50 meters. Even when a malfunction occurred at an altitude of 50 meters, our aircraft is still able to open the parachute. We have done that in 2023.

Qiu Mingquan, Vice president of XPENG AEROHT

The low-altitude economy needs larger scale of production

First of all, for the development of any vehicle, energy challenges are the most demanding, so the power must be the top priority for future breakthroughs. For example, the energy density can support the vehicle to fly for only 20 minutes, but after the breakthrough it can fly for 30 minutes, even for an hour. This is progress in energy. We've already made such progress in automobiles. But for the aviation industry, continuous optimization and breakthroughs are still needed. This is the first aspect of technology. The second aspect lies in innovative aviation-grade materials for aviation manufacturing, especially carbon fiber materials. Now the carbon fiber technology is mature, but should be proved to meet the needs of aviation manufacturing, such as high safety, light weight and high reliability. Products like carbon fiber have complex manufacturing process, leading to a high rate of defective products and increased costs. Breakthroughs are needed in this kind of technology. As for the breakthroughs in flight control systems and algorithms, they also need continuous improvement in the future. From manned to unmanned driving, we need to gradually refine these technologies.

Overall, that's power, flight control, and autonomous driving, including aerial mapping and aerial navigation. As for the application reform of lightweight, high-safety and high-strength materials, we hope in the future, the scale of vehicles can reach 10,000. Our current counterparts launch one or two thousand vehicles worldwide, then the low-altitude economy will not achieve progress.We believe that if every enterprise like ours can exceed the 10,000 scale, then the low-altitude economy can develop well.

Three advantages of Guangdong supporting low-altitude economy

First, the policies in Guangdong are very favorable now, particularly in Guangzhou. Let's start by discussing the scenarios. Guangdong has various application scenarios. There is developed commerce, a high density of cities, and many rivers. So we think Guangdong has many application scenarios. This is the first advantage. The second advantage is that the industrial cluster of new energy vehicles is very rich and mature in Guangdong, especially in Guangzhou. The development of eVTOL and the research of low-altitude products largely depend on the development of smart electric vehicles. This is different from that in foreign countries. They may still rely on the aviation supply chain. Chinese enterprises like XPeng AeroHT rely more on the domestic industrial chain of smart electric vehicles. Guangdong enjoys great advantages in these industrial chains. Besides, Guangdong boasts a strong capital advantage and financial advantage. It also has a strong talent advantage. So, in terms of geographical advantages and government support, including industrial clusters and talent I mentioned, Guangdong enjoys favorable conditions for low-altitude economy.

In addition to "flying cars", Guangdong's commercial aerospace industry is also showing a thriving trend. On January 23, CAS Space successfully launched five satellites with Zhongke-1A Y3 rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. What future prospects will Guangdong have in the field of commercial space? Let's go to CAS Space and have a look. 

Xiang Zebin, Designer of Zhongke-1A of CAS Space

The Zhongke-1A rocket made 6 key technologies breakthroughs

Zhongke-1A rocket in the development and production process has made 6 key technologies breakthroughs. There are also 13 new domestic technologies that are being used for the first time. For example, we have for the first time adopted the separation method of a new energy pollution-free ship bod. Moreover, we have "multiple satellites with one rocket" layout and "multiple satellites with one rocket" precision orbit technology. We're now the largest solid-propellant rocket in the country. So these are some innovation points of Zhongke-1A rocket in the development and production process. The invention of Zhongke-2A is to meet the need of the large-scale new networking and the low-cost cargo spacecrafts of our country. The Zhongke-2A belongs to liquid-propellant rocket which we plan to have the maiden flight in 2050, with the low-cost cargo spacecraft as well.

Li Qinfeng, Deputy Manager of CAS Space (Guangzhou) Equipment Industry Co., Ltd.

The GBA provides solid industrial foundations

We are attracted to its location at the GBA, as Nansha District of Guangzhou is the geometric center of t he GBA. Here, the transportation by road, rail or sea is very convenient for our products, and the traffic is also smooth. Especially when we are now developing the carrier rockets for potential sea launches, which are also likely to be launched in Wenchang, Hainan. The transportation and logistics are very convenient.

From Guangdong province, Guangzhou, to Nansha district, all provide strong support and assistance in terms of policies and funding in commercial spaceflight. For example, we are currently promoting breakthroughs in key technologies for reusable carrier rockets, and we have received significant financial support here.

Additionally, we are also attracted by cities around the GBA, such as Dongguan, Shenzhen and Foshan, own solid industrial foundations. which include capabilities in chips and software development, structure manufacturing and high-end equipment manufacturing, offering great opportunities for cooperation in research, development and product manufacturing for our company.





记者:杨雨莱 李依农

制作:李群 蔡于恬

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