Dubai Set to Launch Passenger Drones

Drones can be used to carry a whole variety of payloads—including human passengers.
23 February, 2017
The Ehang 184 promises a Jetsons-style revolution in quick commutes, via autonomous passenger drones.
Look to the skies above Dubai, and you might catch a glimpse of the first drone to transport people instead of pizzas, packages, or even life-saving medicines. The Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates says he has a goal to make 25 percent of all passenger trips in his country driverless by 2030, and the Ehang 184 – sort of a helicopter capsule for one made in China – has already flown more than 200 times.
Since it featured at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2016, Ehang's 184 has been generating a significant amount of buzz and questions over when and how it could meet aviation laws in various countries.

Mattar Al Tayer, head of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, said at the recent World Government Summit that the Ehang 184 tests at the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority have gone well. The unmanned "air taxi" has been tested in desert conditions and coastal environments, with first trips planned for July.

The drone travels up to 25 minutes at cruising speed at a maximum height of 3,500 meters above sea level and speeds of 100 kilometers per hour. The electric drone recharges in four hours, but has a fast charge option that needs just one hour.
The Ehang capsule fits one person and a small suitcase, with total weight no more than 100 kilograms. Once summoned, the drone picks up a passenger who enters a destination via smartphone app. The commuter sits in a rocker-type chair designed like an F1 racing seat, inside a capsule measuring 2074 millimeters high by 1018 wide.

The passenger cabin is air-conditioned and designed with a tablet screen to keep the passenger connected via WiFi. The drone itself is controlled via 4G Internet, and the company plans to build manned command posts; the Ehang team says it has one completed in China.
Image: TechCrunch
The drone is unusually lightweight, with the body made from a carbon fiber and epoxy composite, and the frame and arms from aluminium alloy components. The net weight of the Ehang 184 is just 240 kilograms, and features gull wing doors and a trunk that keeps it as design-sleek as it is efficient.

In fact, the four Ehang propeller arms fold in much the way a portable tent or event canopy does, so that users or owners can park it in the same space you'd need for a typical car. As with most helicopters, it takes off and lands vertically so it needs as little space for operation as it does for parking and storage.
Image: CW33
Safety comes first, so there are reinforcements for all flight systems. The Fail-Safe System ensures that if any components malfunction, or if there's in-flight damage from a bird or other cause, the drone starts taking necessary precautions to ensure safety.

The encrypted system automatically evaluates the damage and determines whether the AAV will need to land. In the event of an emergency, passengers can elect to halt flight and simply hover in the air with just one click.
"The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy efficient way," said Ehang CEO Huazhi 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."
Whether it is Ehang or another brand that ultimately brings passenger drones into the mainstream, there is little question that this type of next-generation transportation option is the closest thing yet to the "flying cars" imagined in decades past.
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