Drone taxi gets green light to test in U.S.
Wed 8 Jun 2016
A passenger drone has been given clearance to commence testing in Nevada, following its unveiling earlier this year at CES 2016 in Las Vegas.
Chinese firm EHang claims that the battery-powered drone is capable of transporting a passenger through the air for up to 23 minutes. Named the EHang 184, the autonomous vehicle has eight propellers on four arms, takes off vertically, can travel at altitudes as high as 3.5km, and has a top speed of 100 kmph (approx. 62 mph).
EHang proposes that a rider would simply jump into the vehicle, enter in a destination on the integrated tablet, and sit back and relax while the taxi drone completes their journey for them.
EHang, which is based in the Guangzhou region of southern China, has teamed up with the state-backed non-profit group Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to help get the drone through regulatory procedures.
‘The State of Nevada, through NIAS, will help guide EHang through the FAA regulatory process with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight,’ explained GOED aerospace and defence expert Tom Wilczek. He added: ‘EHang’s selection of Nevada to test its people-carrying drone marks a thrilling addition to the innovative companies testing throughout our state to advance the commercial drone industry. I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system.’
EHang founder and CEO Huazhi Hu also added that the move to test in Nevada would pave the way for the future commercialisation of the single-seat 184 drone, as part of a wider push towards autonomous aerial transportation.
EHang confirmed that testing would begin later this year to prove its viability to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and receive permission to operate in a commercial capacity. However, given that self-driving cars are still so far off from full integration on our roads, it is hard to see a time in the near future when flying drone taxis are part of our everyday commutes.