Ehang: autonomous passenger drones could soon be a reality

Ehang: autonomous passenger drones could soon be a reality
Image Courtesy: Youtube

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a compact personal air carrier that takes you places?

Well, now it’s possible using the drone technology…..yes….drones !

Chinese company Ehang has developed an electric passenger drone that is capable of autonomously carrying an individual in the air for good 23 minutes. The company unveiled Ehang 184 (that’s what its called) at CES in Las Vegas in January.

The firm has partnered with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development for testing the drone and get requisite regulatory approvals. This, according to company’s founder and chief executive, Huazhi Hu, will serve as the first step towards Ehang’s commercialisation and the development of autonomous aerial transportation industry.

According to Tom Wilczek, Goed’s aerospace and defence specialist, NIAS will help guide Ehang through the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulatory process “with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight.”

Ehang  will have to prove airworthiness to the FAA in its first test later this year with guidance from NIAS, before being able to qualify for wider usage. Nevada has been at the forefront of testing of advanced transport solutions, being of the first states in the US to permit the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

For Ehang, which already makes relatively traditional camera and hobbyist drones, Ehang 184 will be the first of its kind passenger drone with the same functionality and purpose as Google’s self-driving car, but in the air.

The idea is to develop a system where little is required on the part of the passenger other than manually entering destination and the drone takes care of the rest including vertical take-off, flying at altitudes upto 3.5 km (11,500 feet) at a speed of up to 100kmph (63mph) for up to 23 minutes using eight propellers on four arms.

“I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system,” said Wilczek. Whether that day is round the corner, remains to be seen.

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