Human-operated ‘Passenger Drones’ are becoming a reality. The city of Dubai is the first in the race for passenger drones to introduce the remotely controlled autonomous drone taxis officially. In fact, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), in collaboration with the Chinese EHANG Company, announced it will launch a unique Autonomous Aerial Taxi Dubai | Capable of Carrying Humans this summer.
The giant quadcopter flying machine is a megadrone called EHang 184, a “Personal Flying Vehicle,” which was debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016. The mega drone EHang 184 claims to be the world’s first ‘Autonomous Aerial Vehicle’ for transporting people. It can transport a single passenger to a destination just by using an onboard app to plan the trip.
As per the EHANG company, the electric-powered EHang 184 is capable of flying a single person at 60mph (100km/hr) on a 23-minute trip and can complete its journey in about half an hour. The drone supports the weight of a passenger of about 100kg. The drone itself weighs 500 pounds.
“The AAV (autonomous aerial vehicle) on display at the World Government Summit is not just a model but it has really flown in Dubai skies,” said Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority. EHang 184 will begin “regular operations” in July.
The vehicle is part of RTA’s plan to create self-driving taxis as part of a strategy to transform 25 per cent of individual journeys and integrate with public transportion using various modes of transport by 2030, Mr. Al Tayer added.
From the EHANG 184 Flight Tests, RTA is optimist on the safety of the passenger-carrying drone. The drone is equipped with a fail-safe system. In case of any onboard elements not functioning properly, the drone goes into a hover mode and then attempts to find a safe landing spot. Also, the drone is equipped with back up services so if another system fails then another will take over.
EHANG 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) is a Chinese drone dubbed by its maker as being “the safest, smartest and [most] eco-friendly low altitude autonomous aerial vehicle.” To operate it, one does not need to learn how to fly or get to a pilot’s license; passengers will just need to press a few buttons before vertically taking off and flying from point A to point B.
Here’s the EHANG 184s’ components and how it works.
- The 184s are autopiloted, directed and monitored via a command center that controls the drone remotely so there is no collision with the other drones flying. All there is to do as a passenger is get in, strap a seatbelt, put in the destination on a touch screen displaying a map of all pre-set destinations and routes in the form of dots and that’s it! The smartphone app allows the vehicle to fly, so the passenger can sit back, and let the drone take over.
- The 184s are pre-programmed in completing tasks before takeoff headed to a specific spot. It is all controlled by a ground-based center that will monitor and handle the entire operation.
- The 184s have a seat fitted with tablet for monitoring the route and drop off destination.
- The 184s are fitted with advanced navigation technologies and equipped with eight motors, four arms and two sets of sensors. Why the eight main propellers? So “in case of any malfunctioning in one of these systems, the standby system would be capable of controlling and safely steering the AAV to the programmed landing point,” Mr. Al Tayer said.
- The 184s can take off and land vertically at targets that have been pre-set. The drones will only fly between predetermined points while being piloted and monitored from a remote command center to which it communicates via a 4G Wireless network. Etisalat has contributed to the successful tests in its capacity as the primary network provider.
- The 184s operate within an area of 40 to 50 kilometers on a single charge. About 30-minutes of flight time.
- The 184s can carry 100 kgs and a small suitcase.
- The 184s can reach a peak altitude of 3.5km.
- The 184s are designed to work in all weather conditions except in exceptional storms. “[The 184s] are equipped with high-precision sensors with a very low threshold of errors and can withstand vibration and extreme temperatures, “said Al Tayer.
As expected, there is a great market for the Ehang 184; to obtain one, however, it will cost around $200,000-300,000.