Two-seater air taxi are already preparing for mass production. The unmanned vehicle worth $336 thousand is used to transport passengers and small cargo, as well as to transport patients. But the prospects of the apparatus depend not only on its creators.
The EHang 216 drone copter was tested at the General Arena stadium in Vienna. The aircraft weighing 340 kg rose to a height of 10 m, not for long circled in the air, after which it landed independently.
In the cabin were two passengers. One of them – AFP photographer Joe Clamar – noted that at first he was worried about rotating screws.
EHang 216 is equipped with eight pairs of rotors, which during flight produce noise of 90 decibels. According to this indicator, the drone is inferior to the helicopter. Manufacturers hope to reduce the level to 75 decibels.
The second problem, according to Clamart, is the compact size of the air taxi. People of high growth will not be able to comfortably stay in the cabin.
However, it is not necessary to fly over long distances. The device is capable of continuously being in the air for no more than one and a half hours. Depending on the load, the copter travels from 50 to 70 km, developing a speed of up to 150 km/h.
The device is equipped with a 17 kW battery, and in terms of energy consumption, it is comparable to an electric car.
EHang 216 was tested for the first time in Austria. The drone developer, EHang, is based in China. In China, the copters have already passed a series of tests, and the startup has received governmental support.
Service for oil and medical professionals
Last year, EHang entered into a strategic partnership with the Sino-Austrian aerospace company FACC. Together, they plan to supply “flying cars” for transporting passengers and small cargo, as well as transporting patients in emergency situations.
The highest demand devices used in China. According to FAAC, customers have already issued several thousand pre-orders for the EHang 216 at a price of $336 thousand. The serial production of copters should start in 2020. By mid-2021, the FAAC expects to release the first 300 UAVs.
According to France24, oil and gas companies that want to transport engineers from one platform to another using drones instead of helicopters are among the customers.
Also interested in the service are travel agencies and medical organizations that transport organs for transplantation.
However, in most countries, flying taxis are not regulated at all. Some manufacturers managed to obtain certification from the Civil Aviation Authority, but in this case the copter was equated to a miniature aircraft. UAVs, while in principle, are not allowed to transport passengers by air.
Regulation is the main obstacle to the development of air taxi, according to the head of the FACC, Robert Machtlinger. He calls for the establishment of rules not only for flights, but also for communication between drones and other aircraft.
Austrian Transport Minister Norbert Hofer stressed that the country is ready to introduce regulation for UAVs.
“I hope that thousands of air taxis will be produced in Austria and soon we will see them in the sky,” Reuters quotes Hofer.
Japan also plans to prepare the regulation of flying taxis. Heterogeneous terrain, constant earthquakes and congested roads are pushing the country towards global urban transport reform, and air taxi can be the solution to most problems.
Experts believe that the introduction of passenger UAVs will take years. Their spread is hampered by a low level of security, lack of infrastructure and inability to adapt to changing weather conditions.