It is a taxi. It is flying. And it’s not a futuristic dream. An electric unmanned two-seater drone from the Chinese company EHang has taken off in Vienna in its first presentation to the press in Europe.
EHang 216 takes off vertically driven by 16 propellers, has a flight range of 35 kilometers, reaches a speed of 130 kilometers per hour and costs about 300,000 euros.
The managers of the Chinese company want to reduce this cost substantially when the device becomes produced in series with the help of its partner, the Austrian aerospace company FACC.
“From the New York airport to Manhattan, a helicopter ride costs 800 dollars, while taking a taxi is worth between 70 and 85 dollars and takes between one and two hours, depending on traffic,” explained FACC president Robert Machtlinger.
The objective is that the flight taxi ride becomes just as fast as a helicopter but costs only between 50 and 85 dollars, the same than a taxi, Machtlinger confided in a press conference.
Derrick Xiong, Ehang co-founder, indicates that this ship aims to revolutionize urban mobility by moving from the two dimensions of land transport to the three dimensions of air travel.
“We have done thousands of tests in the past few years to guarantee the security, with and without crew members, in different atmospheric conditions,” he said.
Flying in a drone “is safe and cheap”
According to Xiong, the biggest challenge is not technology or air regulation, but “change the mentality” so that people perceive that flying in a drone “is safe and cheap”.
Austrian Transport Minister Norbert Hofer did not hide his enthusiasm for this technology, which he described as “clean and efficient”, and said that EHang 216 is safer and less noisy than a helicopter.
“With this drone you can travel very fast from the center of Vienna to the surroundings. It is electric, clean and safe,” the minister said, and promised to promote a regulation for these autonomous taxis as soon as possible
In order to change public’s perception of the safety of these drones, EHang organized test flights for the first time in the world on Thursday, April 4, for press representatives at the Generali Arena football stadium in Vienna.
They are supervised and operate autonomously
Drones work autonomously and the passenger just have to select a predetermined destination – for example, from the stop of the taxi-dron to the airport – so that the vehicle takes off, flies and lands you on the chosen place.
Both the route and the height of the flight must be agreed by the civil aviation authorities and the company once there is regulation, according to EHang sources.
The short range of these vehicles is due to the capacity of the batteries, which can be recharged in an hour, but when technology improves, the capacity to carry more passengers and weight will increase.
Meanwhile, Machtlinger was convinced that autonomous air mobility will come before the terrestrial, because it is a completely new sector below 300 meters high.
What seems certain is that this kind of mobility will reach China sooner than anywhere else, according to Xiong.
(April 5, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)
Los taxis de Nueva York
Animales que vuelan
entre 50 y 85 dólares
entre 70 y 85 dólares
serán conducidos por los propios pasajeros
funcionan de manera autónoma
no necesitan permiso de las autoridades de aviación civil