Chinese drone manufacturer EHANG, Inc. has released video footage as well as technical details of its EHANG 184 autonomous aerial vehicle in action.
At CES 2016 in Las Vegas the company promised to build a completely autonomous, passenger-carrying drone, which raised a certain amount of skepticism at the time. This drone they predicted would revolutionize the transport industry.
Over a series of manned test flights the developers aim to guarantee that the EHANG 184 AAV will be safe and ready for public use in the not too distant future. The EHANG 184 is able to carry a single person at up to 130 km/h in a range of weather conditions, apparently including a force 7 typhoon with gale-force winds, high heat, heavy fog.
EHANG, a high-tech company founded in 2014 in Guangzhou, develops, manufactures and sells intelligent UAVs and also provides related services; what is more company employees themselves are prepared to be the ‘guinea pig’ test passengers to prove the safety, stability and reliability of their product.
Of the 40 or so passengers prepared to take part in this critical testing phase were EHANG founder and CEO, Huazhi Hu, and Wang Dong, the deputy mayor of Guangzhou, China, where the tests were performed.
Hu founded EHANG in 2014 and since then more than 150 of his technical engineers have conducted thousands of test flights, including a vertical climbing test reaching up to 300 m, a loaded test flight carrying approximately 230 kg, a routed test flight covering 15 km, and a high-speed cruising test that reached 130 km/h.
The company is a pioneer and leading advocate of the global civilian UAV industry with a dedicated belief in offering people the opportunity to fly smart software-based control, smartphone tilt control, autonomous UAV formation flight technology, 3D air mobility are just some of the innovative ideas they have created.
EHANG has developed a wide range of aerial products, including the EHANG 184 autonomous aerial vehicle, a command & control center for smart UAVs, EHANG Egret UAV formation flight technology, the EHANG Falcon commercial UAV, and the GHOSTDRONE series consumer UAV.
So of course the next question is ‘when will these passenger drones be ready available for public use?’
EHANG envisages its multirotor aircraft being used as an air taxi, shuttling passengers across dense urban environments and hopes to demonstrate this service at Dubai’s World Government Summit later this month. Dubai has also been working closely with the German company Volocopter on a similar air taxi service.
Stateside, EHANG has already received permission from the state of Nevada to test the EHANG 184 at its FAA-approved UAV test site.
EHANG was granted the AS9100C certification in 2017, a quality management system widely adopted and standardized by international aerospace industry, and its AAV obtained the Special Flight Permit for civil aerial vehicles issued by CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China).
EHANG is also working closely with CAAC to jointly establish relevant airworthiness standards for the transformative AAVs as a major industry representative of the CAAC UAV Technical Experts Committee.
Success with the test flights has encouraged EHANG to continue improving the aircraft and more attention will be placed on improving passenger experience and on adding an option for manual control, giving passengers with piloting experience the choice to operate the vehicle manually. The company has already developed and tested a two-seater with a payload of up to 617 pounds (280 kilograms).
While luxury rides for the wealthy appears to be the first phase of this new market, autonomous aircraft travel could become more widely available at lower prices once fleets and flight paths have become secured and the cost of having a human pilot around is eliminated.