Over the last few years the flying taxi has become somewhat crowded with the Ehang 184 being the latest addition. Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Airbus and Intel are all in the advanced stages of their respective autonomous aerial vehicles (AAV’s). Although designs vary, all flying taxis seem built for the same purpose. They transport people autonomously across city environments to overcome pollution, congestion and other inconveniences associated with traveling mostly along the ground.
We really have seen some impressive footage from the Volocopter and SureFly Drone but, until now, the Chinese have kept the Ehang 184 a closely guarded secret.
The Ehang 184 Autonomous Flight
Ehang 184 AAV is one of the safest, smartest and most eco-friendly low altitude autonomous aerial vehicles. They aim to provide medium to short distance communication and transportation solutions.
Crafted from a carbon fiber and epoxy composite with an aluminum alloy frame, the Ehang 184 shows an impressive top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph). Ehang says that its aircraft can fly at cruising speed for 25 minutes following a one-hour recharge. It can also reportedly withstand wind from a force seven typhoon which was recently demonstrated.
A newly released video shows the Ehang being put to the test with passengers inside the aircraft. The guests of honour included Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu and a Chinese government official, deputy mayor of Guangzhou, Wang Dong.
Safety Features and Functionality
The aircraft is shown working in some challenging conditions, including heavy fog and what is claimed to be a force seven typhoon. It also flies at night reaching an altitude of 300 m (1,000 ft) and completing a long-range flight of 8.8 km (5.5 miles). According to Ehang, they previously covered a distance of 15 km (9.3 miles) in a separate test.
Ehang 184 flies in an inverted U-shape where take-off and landing targets are preset with the Ehang Logo. The landing camera positions the landing targets automatically and with utmost precision. A simple, advanced and unique application system shows the necessary in-flight data with a single click for take-off and landing.
As far as safety goes, the 184 is embedded with the Ehang fail-safe system, designed with full redundancies in place. In the event any of the components malfunction or disconnect, the aircraft will immediately find the nearest available safe area to land. The 184 uses 100% green technology and is powered only by electricity. If one part of the power system functions abnormally, the AAV still operates a normal flight plan ensuring the safety of the passengers onboard. In addition, all the communication systems are encrypted and each AAV has its own independent key.
Performing manned test flights enables Ehang to demonstrate the safety and stability of their aircraft. Hu added that, “What we’re doing isn’t an extreme sport, so the safety of each passenger always comes first. Now that we’ve successfully tested the Ehang 184, I’m really excited to see what the future holds for us in terms of air mobility.”
The AAV is ‘always-on’ and connected to a low-altitude command center. It is permitted to fly 24-7 but the command center will prevent the AAV from taking off during extreme weather conditions.
The Ehang has come a long way since the taxi drone was first introduced at CES 2016 as a prototype. CEO Huazhi Hu said it’s been a step-by-step process and that they follow their own road map. Especially in terms of development and application of transformative technologies. The question remains how long before we see flying taxis deployed in airspace all around the world. Will it really help traffic congestion? Does it add different elements of risk to passengers and those on the ground?
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