Catch the drone
It had to happen sooner rather than later, and it is no surprise that it happened in China.
In February 2018 the world’s first passenger drone made its debut public flight in China, taking off from Guangzhou City.
All the passenger had to do was to get into the small cabin and fasten the seat belt. The automated flight system took over, signalling what could be the start of significant innovation in travel.
Two years before the first public flight, Chinese drone maker Ehang went to the Consumer Technology Association’s CES in Las Vegas, promising to build a completely autonomous, passenger-carrying quadcopter that would revolutionise mobility.
“Yeah, sure” the sceptics said.
But even the wildest of dreams can turn to reality.
So it is with the Ehang 184, an all-electric quadcopter scaled up from a drone so that it’s large enough to carry a passenger. Ehang calls it an autonomous aerial vehicle. The power source? Lithium Polymer batteries.
Ehang says the 184 can carry a single 100 kg passenger up to 10 mi (16.5 km) or roughly 23 minutes of flight. Its speed can reach 100 km/h. The person in the cockpit doesn’t do any of the flying; just input the destination and enjoy the ride.
It is claimed the aircraft can autonomously take off, fly a route, sense obstacles, and land.
On 8 February 2018 that’s just what happened.
Said Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu: “It’s been a lifetime goal of mine to make flight faster, easier, and more convenient than ever. The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy-efficient way. I truly believe that Ehang will make a global impact across dozens of industries beyond personal travel. The 184 is evocative of a future we’ve always dreamed of and is primed to alter the very fundamentals of the way we get around.”
The company said the drone was tested more than 1,000 times before the first flight with a passenger aboard.
The Ehang 184 is designed to withstand moderate gales with winds of up to 50 kilometres per hour.
And if anything goes wrong, a human pilot is supposed to step in and take over the controls from a remote command station. That wasn’t necessary in the first public display. Also, it is claimed that 4 of the 8 rotors can stop and the vehicle would still be able to land.
Will they be seen in the sky anytime soon?
Last year the city of Dubai announced a plan to co-operate with EHang to develop self-flying taxis.
Ehang expects to have units on the market in 2019. No estimate of price has been given yet.
More information: http://www.ehang.com/ehang184
Is it a car, is it a plane?
A retail price has been put on the PAL-V Liberty flying car; around 425,000 pounds or $A 2,180,000.
The world’s first commercial flying car was to make its public debut at the 2018 Geneva motor show.
Dutch manufacturer PAL-V claims its Liberty is fully compliant with regulations and says it represents a “pivotal time in aviation and mobility history”. It expects to make first customer deliveries next year.
Only 90 will be sold, with around half of them headed to Europe, and after their delivery the manufacturer will start delivery of the Liberty Sport model.
The Liberty has a three-wheel layout and rotor blades on the roof which fold away. It’s effectively a gyrocopter aircraft with two engines. Its Rotax engine-based dual propulsion drivetrain includes one engine for driving and one for flying, with an unpowered large rotor on top that provides lift, while an engine-powered blade on the rear of the vehicle gives thrust.
It has lowered suspension and a tilting two-person cockpit.
To convert the car from drive to fly mode or vice versa takes around 5-10 minutes, according to PAL-V. The rotor mast unfolds automatically, but the driver must pull out the tail section, unfold two rotor blades and take out the prop to get it ready to fly.
The operator will also need a flying licence. PAL-V says the Liberty requires take-off space of around 90-200×200 m without obstacles. Small airstrips, airfields, glider sites and ultralight airfields will be most appropriate.
Noise? Reportedly comparable to a small fixed wing plane, and “much less” than a helicopter.
The PAL-V One has two seats and a 160-kW flight certified petrol engine, giving it a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph) on land and in air, and a Maximum Take-off Weight of 910 kg.
Read the special report on the Lithium Revolution: https://floggerblogger.com/the-lithium-revolution-1/