TRAVELS: World’s first passenger drone set to fly

A drone used to illustrate the story
A drone used to illustrate the story

The U.S. and Chinese Aerial technology company, EHang Holdings Limited, on Monday said the world’s first drone capable of autonomously carrying a person would test-fly in Nevada later this year.

The Chinese company based in China’s southern province of Guangdong, said they are moving forward with testing the EHang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, the first drone to offer autonomous human flight over short-to-medium distances.

The company said the state’s Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), has already given it the permission to test fly the drone.

Ehang said it is now working closely with NIAS over the coming months to work through the UAS flight requirements.

Tom Wilczek, an Aerospace and Defence Industry Specialist of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), said government would help guide EHang through the FAA regulatory process with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight.

He said that the programme would take place at Nevada’s FAA-approved test site, one of six such drone-testing locations across the U.S.

Wilczek said the partnership “is a big step for EHang 184 to move forward to government regulatory approval of the unprecedented innovation in U.S. and globally.

“We were very excited when we first saw EHang-184 at CES, and we think there is enormous potential for EHang 184,” he said.

Huazhi Hu, Founder and CEO of EHang, said in a statement that the exercise would lay the foundation for its commercialisation and building up the aerial transportation ecosystem in the future.

He said the electrically powered Ehang 184, released at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January, and could carry a single passenger weighing up to 100 kg for a 23-minute flight at sea level at a speed of 100 km per hour.

“Passengers using the “Ehang-184” enter a destination into the drone’s linked smartphone app.

“There’s no need for a runway because the drone takes off and lands vertically,’’ he said.

Hu explained that EHang won’t just be flying in the empty desert, and as a result, it was collaborating with U.S. Company Lung Biotechnology to develop and purchase up to 1,000 units of a modified version of EHang 184 to optimise it for organ delivery.

He said the companies have agreed to work together over the next 15 years under a programme named the Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (MOTH) system.


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