EHang Demonstrates Autonomous Flight to the Public

The two-seat EHang 216 recently took flight inside Vienna’s Generali Arena as part of the 4GAMECHANGERS Festival. Courtesy EHang Air Mobility Group

Chinese EHang Air Mobility Group has taken major steps toward making autonomous transportation a reality. The company recently conducted a public flight of its EHang 216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) at the Generali Arena in Vienna as part of the 4GAMECHANGERS Festival, which took place April 9 through 11. While the electric VTOL is not certified, these flights were allowed due to the controlled environment of the stadium.

The event was put on by EHang, Austrian media giant ProSiebenSat.1 and FACC, an aviation company that is set to start producing EHang AAVs in Austria starting next year.

EHang is working on two AAV versions: the single-seat 184 and the two-seat 216, both of which are electrically powered. The 184 has four arms and eight propellers while the 216 has eight arms with 16 propellers. The aircraft will allow anyone to fly simply by touching a GPS screen to create and execute a flight plan.

To date, the Chinese company has conducted thousands of hours of flight testing in China with and without a human on board, according to several news outlets, and it appears to be the leader in the race to make autonomous transportation a reality.

While autonomous air taxi still might appear to be science fiction, there are many other major competitors that have taken strides toward bringing the concept to life. Boeing, Airbus, Bell and Pipistrel are just a few of the contenders in this competition. Several of these companies have already brought their proof-of-concept aircraft to flight.

The biggest obstacles now might be creating the certification standards; infrastructure, on the ground and in the air, to support these self-flying vehicles; and the acceptance of the general public. “In addition to flawless technology and safety in use, technological innovations require one thing in particular: people have to recognize the utility and trust the new technology,” said Michael Stix, COO of ProSiebenSat.1 PULS 4.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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