When the whole world is talking about Hyperloop, a Chinese drone taxi startup EHang has developed a flying taxi which is going to start its service in Dubai by next year.
Guangzhou-based drone taxi is a four battery-powered propeller, equipped with fully-automated navigation, according to CEO Hu Huazhi. Passengers select a pre-programmed flight path and then strap in for the ride. The E-184 has a cruising speed of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour and can stay in the air for 25 minutes, reported Bloomberg.
The flying taxis can carry a person weighing up to 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) along with a small suitcase. The Passengers don’t need to learn how to fly the drones, instead, they simply lock the vehicle’s door, input a destination using the onboard interface, then fasten a multi-point restraint.
The EHang 184 “AAV” or Autonomous Aerial Vehicle is part of a wider initiative that Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced in April 2016: that he wanted 25% of all passenger journeys in Dubai to be carried out in autonomous vehicles by 2030.
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“We will start mass production of our passenger drones at the beginning of next year,” Hu told Bloomberg TV. “We also plan to install fully automated production lines to enlarge manufacturing capacity in 2018.”
From the safety point of view, EHang has no in-cockpit flying controls, and there’s no way the passenger could steer the vehicle if the tablet fails or cellular connection drop off. If anyone of the motors dies, or a propeller disintegrates, the aircraft won’t flip and crash to the ground. However, EHang claims a 24/7 flight control centre monitors each flight and can intervene in emergency situations.
According to the company, EHang 184 equipped with electric motors and computers with GPS and other types of navigation, it lifts off, flies, and lands relatively quietly. According to Ehang’s data sheet for the 184, it launches and lands at pre-designated locations marked with a logo, and has cameras that help it navigate safely and with precision.
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Another issue, particularly for Dubai in the summer, is that rotor systems don’t work very efficiently in hot air, which can dramatically reduce an aircraft’s payload capacity and flight time from its specifications on paper.
EHang, based in Guangzhou, China and with offices in San Carlos, California, wants to develop a network of taxi drones around the world. The company plans to sign deals in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and “several European cities” next year, the CEO said.