ehang 184 - Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV)
EHang 184, the world's first electric, personal Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) that will achieve humanity's long-standing dream of easy, everyday flight for short-to-medium distances. Ehang.com
A Chinese firm, Beijing based Ehang, has launched the world's first drone for passenger flight. Ehang says that it has already carried out flights over urban areas with human passengers. No pilot is required, the drone flies a set course that is programmed in via a simple tablet or smartphone app.
The Ehang 184 was inspired by the deaths of two close friends and colleagues of company chief executive Hu Huazhi, both in flying accidents. These deaths, which both happened in light aircraft, resolved Mr Hu to build a completely autonomous, computer controlled passenger aircraft with safety designed in.
According to Ehang, the 184's fully automated navigation supported by a 24/7 real-time flight command centre means that passengers have no need for a pilot's license.
The company believes that the drone's development has implications not only for passenger flight but for shipping, medical care and retail applications as well.
The Ehang 184 is 1.5 metres high and weighs 200 kilograms (440 pounds). It has a load capacity of 100 kilograms (220 pounds), and a maximum output of 106W powered by eight electric motors. The AAV is designed to have the capability to carry a single passenger for 23 minutes' duration flight at sea level at an average cruising speed of 100 km/h.
The 184 body comprises a cabin for a single passenger with a gull-wing door, a trunk and the power system composed of four arms and eight propellers attached to the bottom. The four arms, when folded, allow the AAV to occupy the same sized parking space as a consumer car.
Inside the cabin is a single seat. In front of the seat is a tablet console for passenger command input. The cabin is air conditioned, and also provides 4G Wi-Fi Internet.
"It's been a lifetime goal of mine to make flight faster, easier and more convenient than ever. The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy efficient way," said Mr Hu. "I truly believe that EHang will make a global impact across dozens of industries beyond personal travel. The 184 is evocative of a future we've always dreamed of and is primed to alter the very fundamentals of the way we get around."
The development of the electrically powered 184 began as a secret project by Ehang in 2013. Its name signifies one passenger, eight propellers, and four arms. The use of eight separate electric engines and propellers, together with on-ground real-time computer support, makes the 184 safer than conventional light aircraft according to Ehang.
The Ehang 184 AAV takes off and lands vertically, and doesn't need a special runway. Its foldable design makes it highly compact, according to Ehang solving the logistical problem that has prevented light aircraft from becoming mass transportation vehicles. The company believes that mass-adoption of the 184 could streamline congested traffic and significantly reduce accidents associated with human-operated vehicles.
The AAV is built on three design principles: "absolute safety by design"; automation; and "sync-flight management platform".
The company believes that automated flight eliminates the most dangerous part of standard modes of transportation: human error.
The Ehang 184 is designed to have built in reinforcements for all flight systems, so if a component fails, multiple backups are in place to take over. The company's proprietary fail-safe system evaluates any system failures, in-flight damage or malfunctions, and evaluates if the AAV needs to land or take other action to ensure passenger safety. The AAV's communications systems are encrypted, with each AAV having its own key.
The 184 uses multiple independent flight control systems to navigate passengers from point A to point B. These systems combine real-time data collected from sensors throughout the flight and automatically plot the fastest and safest route to carry passengers to their destinations.
The "sync-flight management platform" is a low-altitude flight command centre that Ehang is building that will be designed to be in constant contact with all of its flying vehicles. Ehang says that while the 184 is able to fly during thunderstorms and other extreme weather conditions, the command centre can prohibit the AAV from taking off as a precaution.