Guangzhou-based drone and eVTOL company Ehang signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Lyon, France, in late November to establish its first European research center, which is expected to create about 50 jobs over the next three years. Ehang also entered into a strategic partnership with Austrian aerospace group FACC in November. The two companies plan to contribute their resources and networks to jointly advance technologies and solutions in the field of urban air mobility. FACC supports high-tech hardware with development, certification, production and worldwide aftermarket services. “FACC and EHang will work closely with industry partners, politicians and aviation authorities to implement the mobility solutions in airspace,” the press release said. “It is also planned, in consultation with the authorities, to accelerate the design of the framework conditions and regulations for individual air mobility and, subsequently, the creation of a test field in Austria.”
EHang 216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle EHang Guangzhou, China www.ehang.com/ehang184 EHang is a dominant player in the quadcopter drone market. The company hopes to extend its unmanned electric VTOL technology to manned applications. The EHang 216 is based on the EHang 184, yet it has eight arms instead of four. This allows for the vehicle to be seat two passengers instead of just one. The EHang 216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (“AAV”) was first announced in February 2018. Manned and unmanned flight testing was conducted in China in 2017, and a manned flight test with Dutch prince Pieter Christiaan took place at the Amsterdam ArenA in April 2018. In a July 2017 interview for CNBC, EHang co-founder Derrick Xiong stated that “at this moment we are working closely with Dubai and we have actually, together with them, we have done numerous tests, internally. Also, we have basically done a lot of — many, many times — tests with a passenger on it, including the vice-mayor of Guangzhou City in China and also some governors from Dubai as well. We have done a lot of tests and we aim to do the very first public demo very soon this year.” As of July 2018 the 216 has made over 1,000 manned flights by July 2018 and has traveled 8.8 km on a single trip. Resources: Search eVTOL News posts Article: Heir and back! Dutch Prince flies into Amsterdam Arena in high-tech autonomous drone-taxi, Daily Mail, April 16, 2018 Article: EHang’s driverless MEGADRONE carries passengers around China …, Daily Mail, Feb. 6, 2018 Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March 2017 Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, Jan 2017 Video: EHang flight, November 22, 2018 Video: EHang 216 Drone Taxi in Arena, Jeronymus80, April 16, 2018 Photo Gallery: A drone-cab, the Ehang 216, presented at the Amsterdam ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Global Times, April 13, 2018 Tags: EHang, Wingless (Multicopter), Flight Testing, 2 Passengers, Electric/Batteries, Autonomous
At the Future of Transportation conference in Cologne, Germany, on a panel chaired by VFS Executive Director Mike Hirschberg, Derrick Xiong, co-founder and chief marketing officer of EHang, provided new insights into the company’s Autonomous Aerial Vehicle. Xiong provided updates on the company’s development testing, and revealed that “30 to 40” of the EHang 184 AAVs have been built; the 184 is for one pilot, and has eight propellers on four arms. Xiong also noted that the new two-seater with 16 propellers was being called the “216” and had already made more than 1,000 manned flights. Both aircraft have been tested extensively in Guangzhou, China and Dubai, and that the maximum range that the aircraft has flown to date was 8.8 km (5.5 miles). Xiong also described that EHang had autonomously flown Dutch Prince Pieter Christiaan into the Amsterdam Arena in April and had conducted a flight demonstration in front of the royal family of Denmark in June. 15 photos from a walk-around of the Ehang 184 first prototype exhibited in Cologne is available on the Vertical Flight Society Photo Gallery.
In February 2018, EHANG — a major player in the quadcopter market — revealed a new version of its 184 eVTOL drone with two-seats and twice as many arms and propellers. The new version can carry a total payload of up to 620 lb (280 kg). The company had unveiled the original 184, whose name means “1 passenger, 8 propellers, 4 arms”, in January 2016 at the Consumer Electronics Show. In a video of the 184’s first public flights in Lianyungang city, China, EHANG said that the 40 or so passengers flown so far included Wang Dong, deputy mayor of Guangzhou; EHANG founder and CEO, Huazhi Hu; and Derrick Xiong, EHANG co-founder and chief marketing officer (shown in the photo in the 16-propeller 184). The new version is apparently still named “184” and no further details were revealed (though if the company had used the same naming logic, it would have been designated the “EHANG 2168”). EHANG’s engineers also tested the 184 in a variety of weather conditions, including high heat, heavy fog, night and “during a Category 7 typhoon with gale-force winds.” The company said that its “150 technical engineers have conducted thousands of test flights, including a vertical climbing test reaching up to 300 m [984 ft], a loaded test flight carrying approximately 230 kg [500 lb], a routed test flight covering 15 km [8 nm], and a high-speed cruising test that reached 130 km/h [70 kt].” EHANG said the 184 can carry a single passenger of 220 lb (100 kg) roughly 23 minutes of flight per charge, or up to 10 miles (16 km).
First Public Manned Flight of EHang 184 in Guangzhou City, China evtol.news/aircraft/ehang/
EHang in Dubai The Chinese drone company, EHang, revealed in July that its EHang 184 eVTOL conducted numerous tests for Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), and that many passengers had been flown to date in China and Dubai. This was the first news that EHang had revealed about the flights since the beginning of the year — there has been speculation that the aircraft suffered a mishap of some kind. Testing in China and Dubai is continuing.
EHang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle EHang Guangzhou, China www.ehang.com/ehang184 EHang is a dominant player in the quadcopter drone market. The company hopes to extend its unmanned electric VTOL technology to manned applications. The designation of its EHang 184 single-seat eVTOL means “1 passenger, 8 propellers, 4 arms.” The EHang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (“AAV”) was initiated by the founder and CEO, Mr. HU Huazhi; in late 2012, he started to design the initial verification model. Manned and unmanned flight testing has been conducted in China in 2015-2017, USA (Nevada) in 2016-2017 and UAE (Dubai), in 2017. In a July 2017 interview for CNBC, EHang co-founder Derrick Xiong stated that “at this moment we are working closely with Dubai and we have actually, together with them, we have done numerous tests, internally. Also, we have basically done a lot of — many, many times — tests with a passenger on it, including the vice-mayor of Guangzhou City in China and also some governors from Dubai as well. We have done a lot of tests and we aim to do the very first public demo very soon this year.” In Feb. 2018, EHang unveiled that it had made a new version, apparently with two-seats named “EHang 216”, that had twice as many arms. The company also reported that the “EHang 184 AAV achieves a series of manned flight tests with up to 40 persons,” including the EHang CEO onboard. Single-Seat EHang 184 Characteristics (Feb. 2017) Resources: Search eVTOL News posts Website: EHang Specs, updated July 5, 2018 Article: EHang’s driverless MEGADRONE carries passengers around China …, Daily Mail, Feb. 6, 2018 Article: First Test Footage Revealed of EHANG 184 Manned Passenger Drone, EHang, Feb. 6, 2018 EHang Facebook video, Feb. 5, 2018 Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March 2017 Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, Jan 2017 VFS Gallery: EHang Walkaround, June 19-20, 2018 Video: EHang 184 AAV Manned Flight Tests, EHang, February 5, 2018 Tags: EHang, Wingless (Multicopter), Flight Testing, 1 Passengers, Electric/Batteries, Autonomous
The earliest electric VTOL aircraft were initially flown by the inventors themselves. Here is a list of the earliest known successful manned eVTOL liftoffs and their pilots. First Flights of eVTOL Aircraft Aug. 4, 2011 Pascal Chretien Solution F Helicopter Venelles, France n/a Oct. 5, 2011 Marcus Leng SkyKar (Opener BlackFly) Rebel Warkworth, Canada C-IJQV Oct. 21, 2011 Thomas Senkel Volocopter VC1 Karlsruhe, Germany n/a March 19, 2018 Marcus Leng Opener BlackFly V2 Palo Alto, California, USA C-IKLT or C-IKLY Feb. 17, 2016 Philippe Antoine Aquinea Volta Castelnaudary, France F-WALG March 30, 2016 Alex Zosel Volocopter VC200 Karlsruhe, Germany D-MYVC Sept. 13, 2016 Ric Webb Tier 1 Electric Robinson R44 Los Alamitos, California, USA N3115T Early 2017 unknown Joby S4 Santa Cruz, California, USA N541JA 2017 Dr. Todd Reichert Kitty Hawk Flyer (prototype) unk, California, USA n/a Aug. 1, 2017 Bill Shoemaker Zee Aero Z-P2 Hollister, California, USA N102XZ Sept. 16, 2017 Boyan Zhelev Astro PassengerDrone (AA360) near Sofia, Bulgaria n/a Early 2018 unknown Kitty Hawk Flyer (production) unk, California, USA n/a Feb. 6, 2018 (1st public manned flight) unknown EHang 184 Guangzhou City, China n/a April 30, 2018 John Graber Workhorse SureFly Cincinnati, Ohio, USA N834LW 2018 unknown EHang 216 Guangzhou City, China n/a May 2018 Kyle Clark Beta Technologies Ava XC Plattsburgh, NY, USA N802UT Nov. 1, 2018 Matt Chasen LIFT Aircraft Hexa Austin, Texas, USA? n/a red text indicates unknown or unconfirmed data Additional flights with pilots/passengers (not first flights) 2018 6 more pilots Opener BlackFly V2 Palo Alto, California, USA C-IKLT or C-IKLY Dec. 3, 2017 Brian Krzanich (Intel) Volocopter VC200 near Munich, Germany D-MYVC Late 2018 Justin Paines Joby S4 unk, California, USA N541JA 2017-2018 additional pilots Kitty Hawk Flyer (prototype) San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA n/a 2018-present Many Kitty Hawk Flyer (production) various n/a 2016-present Many EHang 184 various n/a 2018-present Many EHang 216 various n/a
NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) Aeromechanics Branch hosted more than 60 interns this summer and focused their energies on studying the future of vertical flight. This is the second of two reports from this past year’s summer interns. By Nicholas Peters Vertiflite Jan/Feb 2019 During my ten-week NASA Aeromechanics Branch internship, I focused on what is considered by some as the most ambitious and ground-breaking new market of the modern aviation industry: urban air mobility (UAM). Even before The Jetsons’ first appearance on TV in the early 1960s, the world has hungered for a possible future of commuting to work by sky. Yet, what started out as a fantasy has slowly turned into an increasingly urgent need. The world traffic issues faced in megacities is one that results in the loss of billions of dollars a year of productivity and one that only continues to worsen with time (see for instance, “Traffic Congestion Costs Americans $124 Billion A Year, Report Says,” Forbes, Jan. 25, 2015). It is this impending megacity gridlock that has led to the business case for not only the UAM field but an overarching goal across the industry to establish alternative forms of transportation for the modern urban environment. Yet, with each of these plans, there are selective enabling technologies that act as limiters to their mass market application, and the UAM market is no different. Currently, eVTOL.news — the VFS website on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft — lists more than 125 proposed UAM-styled aircraft established by companies ranging from startups to the largest players of aviation (e.g. Airbus, Bell, Boeing and Embraer). Nearly all of these concepts propose using enabling technologies such as fly-by-wire-based control laws, electric hybrid propulsion, and advanced structures and manufacturing techniques. With a large array of technologies still needing to be studied, there is a clear need for a financial incentive to speed the practical application of these technologies. Here is where the GoFly Prize enters the UAM field. The GoFly competition requires that selected teams design and fly minimally-small “personal flying devices” that can incorporate VTOL technologies into their design (see “GoFly Enters Phase II,” Vertiflite, July/Aug 2018 or www.goflyprize.com). While each team is competing for $2M in prizes and the hopes of developing a marketable product, the collective information provided by the teams will form the foundation on which a future UAM market for individual transportation could grow.To date, the competition has completed its first phase and has selected 10 winners. It is clear that these teams were selected both because their proposed aircraft represented a practical demonstrator and because they appeared capable of seeing their project to completion. However, what may not be so clear is the feasibility of each aircraft selected. With new proposals for eVTOL aircraft being posted on the eVTOL.news directory on almost a daily basis, the rotorcraft community has the opportunity to consider the feasibility of these aircraft. In his Sept/Oct Vertiflite Commentary, “Beware the Hyper-Hype Cycle,” VFS Executive Director Mike Hirschberg warned of …
Astro’s Elroy Blasts Off The exclusive story of the origins and progress of the PassengerDrone By Kenneth I. Swartz Vertiflite Nov/Dec 2018 Astro Aerospace holds the distinction of being one of a handful of electric aircraft developers in the world to have successfully flown a piloted electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. (More details on Astro and links to more resources are available at www.eVTOL.news/passenger-drone.) Although the Texas-based company is new to the aerospace business, in March 2018 it completed the strategic acquisition of all rights to PassengerDrone. The aircraft first came to international attention with the team’s YouTube video release on July 16, 2017, which revealed that the 16-rotor eVTOL aircraft had made successful autonomous flights, followed by an actual passenger flight that September. Astro Aerospace was founded by Bruce Bent, a Canadian technology investor and the chief financial officer of Matthews Southwest, a large Dallas area-based private real-estate development company with major projects in the US, Canada, the UK and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In late March 2018, the prototype PassengerDrone was shipped from Europe to North America to begin a new life as the Astro “AA360,” though that name was replaced with “Elroy” in September 2018. With the tagline “Flight Made Easy,” Astro’s goal is to “make self-flying unmanned and manned vehicles available to anyone, at any time, from anywhere, and to turn this new and exciting aircraft into a mainstream mode of transportation.” In the Beginning PassengerDrone was the brainchild of Boyan Zhelev and Ivaylo Nikolov, two Bulgaria-born electronics and software experts who spent many years working on security solutions before turning their attention to the development of drones in 2004. “At that time, only a couple of companies and teams were developing multi-rotor aircraft … [and our] initial development target was a completely autonomous system mainly for surveillance applications. Our team soon realized that there were no existing, ready-to-use electronics modules or software solutions for such applications, so we started developing these from scratch,” recalled Zhelev. The partners began “designing and building the necessary electronics modules and hardware, and developing the advanced software algorithms. Then after three years of efforts, our multi-rotor prototypes began performing completely autonomous flights in 2007.” These efforts led to a successful business partnership with some industry-leading German companies in the emerging consumer drone market, as well as work developing military applications that utilized the team’s know-how in advanced motor control and radio communications. Work on a manned eVTOL aircraft began in 2015, with the goal of “developing a passenger drone aircraft that is intuitive to fly, even for an inexperienced pilot, and that can be operated completely autonomously,” recalled Zhelev. “Our aim was developing flight control systems which can assist human operators or pilots in handling flying, with ease — much like the challenging development of automobile autopilots, but adding a third dimension.” The next three years were spent “developing a completely new system architecture to provide this desired ease of flight, with a strong focus on safety, redundancy, flight …