Ehang, an innovative company that specializes in the development of smart drones, has released footage of the first piloted test flights of the Ehang 184 passenger-carrying drone.
The Ehang 184 is entirely electric, and it is capable of carrying one passenger a distance of 10 miles (roughly 23 minutes in the air) at a speed of 80 miles per hour.
The person in the cockpit of the 184 AAV (autonomous aerial vehicle) is not required to pilot the aircraft. The passenger simply inputs their destination, and Ehang claims that the AAV is capable of complete autonomous performance — taking off, flying, sensing obstacles, and landing.
If anything were to go wrong during flight, the company says the vehicle is embedded with the Ehang fail safe system, which would cause it to land immediately in the nearest possible area.
“We’ve been developing and testing aerial vehicle technology for some time now, and we’re finally at the test flight stage for the AAV,” said Ehang founder and CEO, Huazhi Hu. “It’s been a huge success.”
So far, more than 40 people have been involved in the manned flight tests of the 184, including the deputy mayor of Guangzhou, Wang Dong, and other government leaders, Ehang CEO Hu, technology research and development staff, partners, and potential customers.
In order to constantly improve the safety and stability of the self-piloted AAV, Ehang’s technical team tested it in various complicated and harsh environments — high temperatures, low temperatures, humidity, salt spray, etc. — and under various environmental conditions including typhoon-force winds. Hu said the aircraft performed well in all conditions.
Passengers can feel safe and secure in the Ehang 184, as communication for the controls of the vehicle is encrypted and each AAV has an independent key.
Despite this success, the Ehang 184 AAV will still undergo further improvements. The company said additional emphasis will be placed on improving passenger experience and on adding an optional manual control, giving passengers with piloting experience the choice to operate the vehicle manually.
In addition, the company has already developed and tested a two-seat AAV with a payload of up to 617 pounds.
Hu founded Ehang in 2014, and since then more than 150 technical engineers have conducted thousands of test flights, including a vertical climbing test reaching up to 984 feet, a loaded test flight carrying approximately 507 pounds, a routed test flight covering 9 miles, and a high-speed cruising test that reached 80 miles per hour.
“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,” Hu said.