Things went quiet regarding Ehang for a while. At one stage it even appeared that the company had gone out of business, but DroneLife was told that instead, the Chinese manufacturer was to shift focus – like many of DJI’s consumer rivals have had to – toward commercial efforts.
Among those efforts has always been Ehang’s statement project, the 184 passenger drone, which was unveiled at CES 2016. The last thing we heard, officials in Dubai had chosen to work with Intel-backed Volocopter ahead of Ehang.
But this week the company has released a major update on the progress of the 184. Ehang’s passenger drone has undergone extensive testing, including over 1,000 manned test flights. Even the CEO has been for a ride, as you can see in the video below…
This is exciting progress from Ehang. The 184 looks incredible in action, and it’s clear the CEO is taking the development personally.
Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu said: “Performing manned test flights enables us to demonstrate the safety and stability of our vehicles,” Hu said. “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.”
So far, more than 150 technical engineers have conducted thousands of test flights. According to Ehang, these have included a vertical climbing test up to 300m, a loaded test flight carrying approximately 230 kg, a route-based test flight covering 15km, and a high-speed cruising test at 130km/h.
In a statement, the company has suggested that more improvements are in the pipeline, which look set to give passengers more control over the 184’s flight:
The EHANG 184 AAV will still see further improvements. More emphasis will be placed on improving passenger experience and on adding an optional manual control, giving passengers with piloting experience the choice to operate the vehicle manually. In addition, the company has already developed and tested a 2-seat AAV with a payload of up to 280 kg.
The big question remains: When will the 184 passenger drone be ready to go mainstream? The company has permission to test in the United States but any major adoption – particularly for public use – looks unlikely in the near future.
“This is a step-by-step process,” said Hu, “and at Ehang, we have our own roadmap. When it comes to the development and application of any transformative technology, first the technological innovation makes an impact, then the relevant policies are created and developed. This goes on to push further development of the industry.”
Malek Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for tech trends and innovation. Email Malek Twitter:@malekmurison