EHang ‘drone taxi’ to be tested in Nevada

Posted on 12 Jun 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

Chinese company EHang is set to begin testing its concept ‘drone taxi’ in the US state of Nevada.

EHang has this week signed an agreement with the Nevada State Government in order to test their EHang 184 autonomous air vehicle.

The agreement itself was signed between EHang, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) as well as the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS).

EHang, based in Guangzhou, China, unveiled the EHang 184 vehicle earlier this year, inviting significant media interest.

The aircraft itself resembles a scaled up quadcopter drone, however is on a much larger scale and able to carry a single adult passenger. As well, unlike traditional helicopters which require skilled pilots, the EHang 184 is fully autonomous, meaning anybody could be a potential passenger.

Within this new agreement, EHang’s main goal appears to be working to get this craft approval to fly from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

“Partnering with GOED and NIAS is a big step for EHang 184 to move forward to government regulatory approval of the unprecedented innovation in US and globally, which will lay the foundation for its commercialization and building up the aerial transportation ecosystem in the future”, said Huazhi Hu, founder and CEO of EHang.

This sentiment was also echoed by the Nevada governor’s office.

“The State of Nevada, through NIAS, will help guide EHang through the FAA regulatory process with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight,” said Tom Wilczek, GOED’s aerospace and defense industry specialist.

Tests will reportedly take place at the Nevada FAA UAS Test Site sometime this year, however the exact date of the first flight of the craft in the US is unknown.

Safety remains a hurdle

While EHang is working to get the 184 craft approved by the FAA, its design means that it will have to overcome significant safety issues.

Similar to other quadcopter (and helicopter) aircraft, should one engine or rotor fail, the craft would crash uncontrollably, making it less safe than fixed-wing planes.

Furthermore, the computer system controlling the craft would need to be well-optimised and incredibly secure in order to prevent bugs or cyberattacks causing crashes.