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Personal Flight Vehicles Now Closer to Becoming a Reality

EHang completes series of tests toward one day allowing passengers to spread wings and leave road traffic on the ground

EHang, the world’s leading autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform company, has successfully performed passenger-carrying AAV demonstration flights. EHang’s passenger-grade AAV, EHang 216, was demonstrated at an air show in  China’s Jilin province, following other successful ventures by the company. The efforts are important as they mark the first departures from dependence on cars and ground transport for personal conveyance, and is being watched by cities, such as Dubai, for use in urban services.

The success of these passenger-carrying autonomous flights demonstrates that pilotless flying taxis are not a distant dream of the future.

“This is a critical step towards making our dream reality and to make urban air mobility broadly available and affordable as a safe, fast, and eco-friendly transportation alternative,” said Hu Huazhi, EHang’s founder, chairman, and CEO.

EHang 216 can carry up to 485 pounds and fly as fast as 80 miles per hour. It is battery powered and equipped with full redundant components for safety, including 16 propellers. Passengers will not need a pilot license to fly EHang’s AAVs and will only need to choose their destinations on a mobile app. The AAVs will fly autonomously on pre-programmed routes, which include taking off, landing vertically, and conducting U-shaped travel. The vehicles will be tracked and can, if necessary, be commandeered from a command-and-control center on the ground.

EHang and its partners have been working with global aviation regulatory authorities, including the International Civil Aviation Organization at the United Nations, the European Aviation Safety Agency, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, and other organizations in North America and Europe, to help lay the groundwork for developing the logistics and regulations for the urban air mobility market.

The urban air mobility market is expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2040, according to a Morgan Stanley report. German consulting firm Horvath & Partners estimates the number of flying taxis could exceed 23,000 by 2035 and that about 240 cities will allow flying taxis in the years between 2025 and 2049.

EHang’s AAVs have also performed multiple passenger-carrying autonomous flight demonstrations in Austria, the Netherlands, and Qatar, among other countries. The one-seater model EHang 184, the world’s first passenger-grade AAV, was unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.