Autonomous air mobility company EHang has chosen Guangzhou, China, as the pilot city for its Urban Air Mobility (UAM) system—an aviation transport network with low-flying taxis and vehicles to carry passengers and goods.
This pilot system is meant to demonstrate that low-altitude, rotor-powered aircraft is a safe, fast, environmentally friendly and cost-efficient way to establish an autonomous air travel network in cities.
“We are very excited about exploring the various meaningful ways in which AAVs (autonomous aerial vehicles) can solve some of the stressors our congested cities face,” said Hu Huazhi, EHang’s founder, chairman and CEO, as reported by Transport Up. “We are in conversations with other cities, not just in China, to develop safe, efficient and affordable autonomous air transportation.”
Faster than ground transport and cheaper than helicopters, EHang is focused on creating solutions to the “last mile” problem faced by many large, congested cities.
At the beginning of the year, China’s Civil Aviation Administration elected EHang as the sole pilot company to construct autonomous flying passenger vehicle services.
The drones will be controlled and monitored by a central traffic management hub that EHang will create alongside the local government in Guangzhou. Both parties will also work together to design the infrastructure needed to operate the transport system.
“Guangzhou is one of the four transportation hubs in the Greater Bay Area,” said Chen Zhiying, Guangzhou’s vice mayor. “The city has always been very accommodating to innovation, which provides EHang with the perfect ecosystem to build out a smart UAM market.”
The company has carried over 2,000 flight tests to ensure that the aerial vehicles can operate safely, even in poor weather conditions.
“Safety has been the top priority for EHang from day one,” Huazhi said.
Earlier this year, the company demonstrated its autonomous EHang 216 air taxi at the 4GAMECHANGERS festival in Vienna. During the event, media representatives were able to experience the difference between self-flying vehicles flight and flight controlled by humans.
“I hope that Austria will be the place where thousands of these drones, of these air taxis, will be built and I hope that very soon we will see a lot of these air taxis in the air,” said Norbert Hofer, Minister of Transport, Innovation and Technology of Austria, at a press conference in April 2019.
In collaboration with Austria’s FACC aviation company, EHang plans to launch a series of air taxis in Austria by 2020.
“Autonomous flying will be possible earlier than autonomous driving, since, unlike street traffic, flying involves completely new routes. Autonomous control allows very precise, steady flight,” said Robert Machtlinger, CEO of FACC.
Robert Scott Lazar