A Chinese technology firm has confirmed that it has carried out the first manned trials of a new ‘drone taxi' service in the country.
The drone taxi which has been named The Ehang 184 had carried out several unmanned test flights before conducting manned trials for the very first time this week. The revolutionary mobility solution incorporates a lot of the design principles of quad-copter drone craft used by hobbyists and budding photographers on a global basis.
However, it has significantly scaled up in size to the point that it can carry up to two passengers at a time. The autonomous drone is powered by electric batteries, has no less than eight propellers and is capable of short haul flights (under an hour) across urbanized areas.
The Ehang 184 is flown autonomously which means that the passenger within the taxi drone does not need to be licensed to fly an aircraft. To get the autonomous aircraft off the ground the passenger presses a button which starts the take-off procedure and flights paths are set with a smartphone application.
It remains to be seen whether or not Chinese citizens will take to the idea of the autonomous drone taxi service, with many still left with concerns in relation to safety. However, the company has made significant progress with their drone taxi concept with regards to safety and has added safety features like remote piloting.
Ehang has confirmed that it has carried over 40 passengers over the last few months which included the Deputy Mayor of Guangzhou and added that the flights have been conducted in varying weather conditions.
CEO of Ehang, Huazhi Hu said that the autonomous taxi drone service represented an exciting new chapter in addressing mobility issues caused by urbanization.
He said, "Performing manned test flights enables us to demonstrate the safety and stability of our vehicles. What we're doing isn't an extreme sport, so the safety of each passenger always comes first. Now that we've successfully tested the Ehang 184, I'm really excited to see what the future holds for us in terms of air mobility."
The company has also unveiled the existence of a larger two-person configuration of the craft with a payload capacity of 280kg, powered by 16 rotors. This craft has also advanced to the point where they are also using it for manned flights.
Nonetheless, Ehang still has a long way to go before it can commercialize its technology and expects to conduct many more test flights before it can get regulatory approval, and once it gets regulatory approval it has got to convince Chinese consumers that the drone is a safe mode of transportation.