LOS ANGELES — The world’s first drone capable of autonomously carrying a person may test-fly in Nevada later this year, the Chinese Aerial technology company EHang Holdings Limited told news agency Xinhua on Sunday, June 19.
The Chinese company based in China’s southern province of Guangdong and the state of Nevada are trying to make this happen by moving forward with testing the EHang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, the first drone to offer autonomous human flight over short-to-medium distances.
The state’s Institute for Autonomous Systems(NIAS) has already given the China’s company permission to test fly the drone. Ehang is now working closely with NIAS over the coming months to work through the UAS flight requirements.
“We will help guide EHang through the FAA regulatory process with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight,” Tom Wilczek, an Aerospace and Defense Industry Specialist of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) told Xinhua early this month.
He said that the program would take place at Nevada’s FAA-approved test site, one of six such drone-testing locations across the United States.
The partnership “is a big step for EHang 184 to move forward to government regulatory approval of the unprecedented innovation in US and globally, which will lay the foundation for its commercialization and building up the aerial transportation ecosystem in the future”, Huazhi Hu, Founder and CEO of EHang said in a statement.
The electrically powered Ehang 184, released at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January, can 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, the company said.
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.
“We were very excited when we first saw EHang-184 at CES,” Wilczek told Xinhua, “and we think there is enormous potential for EHang 184.”
Many questions remain over how the human-carrying aircraft would function in the real world, but at least some of these may soon be answered with the company winning governmental approval to test the vehicle in Nevada airspace.
The eagerness of the so called “the birthplace of the UAV industry” makes sense given its tourism-driven economy. The empty desert holds the hope of hyperloops, drone delivery, autonomous trucking, and drone airports.
And EHang won’t just be flying in the empty desert. Last month, EHang announced a collaboration with US company Lung Biotechnology to develop and purchase up to 1,000 units of a modified version of EHang 184 to optimize it for organ delivery.
The companies have agreed to work together over the next 15 years under a program named the Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (MOTH) system. — PNA/Xinhua