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.” 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 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 Video: EHang 184 AAV Manned Flight Tests, EHang, February 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 Tags: EHang, Wingless (Multicopter), Flight Testing, 1 Passengers, Electric/Batteries, Autonomous
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 …
Electric VTOL is Taking Off. Beware the Hyper-Hype Cycle. By Mike Hirschberg Vertical Flight Society Executive Director Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2018 One of the reasons why members of the nascent helicopter community decided in early 1943 to establish the American Helicopter Society was because they didn’t feel that they were being taken seriously by the aviation establishment. The founders of the helicopter industry established the Society to be a catalyst for rapid technological advancements because it created a community open to collaboration and innovation. The majority of aeronautical engineering professionals at the time, however, were dismissive of the helicopter’s potential. They only saw the existing capabilities of the fledgling rotorcraft through the lens of the much more mature fixed-wing aircraft, which were generally focused on maximizing speed and range. In contrast, early inventors and the public began to hype the helicopter for personal use. “Any intelligent person who can learn to drive a car will be able to fly a postwar helicopter after a few easy lessons,” Frank Piasecki told The Los Angeles Times in 1944 after he and his PV-2 appeared in the newsreel film, “An Air Flivver in Every Garage.” Bell famously bought 500 Franklin engines in advance for its Model 47B that was styled like a luxury car, but it cost 10 times more and didn’t sell. Other inventors jumped on the helicopter bandwagon and by 1950, scores of inventors began working on their own design to meet the expected explosion in demand for personal air travel that never happened. Cost, performance, reliability and safety were just a few of the factors that doomed these early visions. During the Korean War and the Vietnam War, the American helicopter industry boomed, as did the use of the helicopter for new and unexpected civil applications (see, for example, “Mountain Rotors,” Vertiflite, March/April 2018). World helicopter production peaked during the late 1960s. But the focus of helicopter development in the 1950s and 60s was primarily performance, not affordability. Perhaps the most significant enabling technology for the modern rotorcraft was the fielding of a completely new propulsion scheme: the much higher power-to-weight turboshaft engine enabled much larger and much more capable rotorcraft, though at a much higher cost than piston models. Later inventors like Frank Robinson reimagined the helicopter as a more personal aircraft. Robinson Helicopter is one of the most successful helicopter companies in the world, with more than 12,000 aircraft delivered to date. The peak of nearly 900 helicopters produced in 2008 is a testament to the demand for more affordable transportation. But the world financial crisis and a decade of slow economic growth, coupled with a less tolerant society, has made that milestone a distant memory. Today, the civil market is still recovering and growing, but combined worldwide piston and turbine production barely exceeded 1,100 units last year, while more expensive military rotorcraft units decline towards half that number (see “The World Rotorcraft Market, 2018–2027,” Vertiflite, May/June 2018). The Hype Cycle The global research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc. developed the so-called “Hype Cycle” for representing the maturity, adoption …
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