According to a recent Associated Press (AP) news article, Ehang, Inc. – the Guangzhou, China drone company, is about to integrate its single-passenger 184 AAV (autonomous aerial vehicle) into Dubai’s alternative transportation plan of attack. With its debut flight over the iconic Burj al-Arab skyscraper hotel already in the books, the Ehang 184 is poised to revolutionize transportation in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai’s Alternative Transportation Plan
On the heels of Dubai’s Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s announcing that “25% of all passenger trips in the city to be done by driverless vehicles in 2030,” Ehang’s could not be more ideal. Already partnered with Tesla’s Elon Musk to build the Hyperloop One – a startup building futuristic tubes to zip people from Dubai to Abu Dhabi – the high-tech UAE city is confident Ehang’s AAV will be an alternative transportation success story.
“This is not only a model,” Mattar al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Agency said. “We have actually experienced with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”
The Ehang 184
The numbers “184” stand for: (1) passenger, (8) propellers, and (4) wings. The Ehang 184 is eco-friendly (running on electricity) and has a flight distance of approximately 23 minutes @ sea level. Limited to a maximum altitude of 11,480 feet, the drone’s cruising speed is approximately 62 mph. The drone is able to carry a passenger weighing up to 264 lbs. Outside of the air conditioning unit and a reading lamp, the most noteworthy amenity is the drone’s downward facing camera. It captures all the action below throughout your less-than-23-minute-flight.
After setting origin (take off) and destination (landing) points using Google Maps, the drone is fully operational and requires no more assistance. Once the course is set, the drone takes off vertically and uses real-time sensor data (GPS) to fly the passenger to their final destination all while avoiding objects like skyscrapers and cliffs. According to the Ehang Inc., there are multiple power systems, so if one fails, the drone can tap into other power sources. There are failsafe features alerting human pilots housed in custom-built “command centers” to take over the drone and fly it to the nearest safe zone.
The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority
Already examined by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Ehang hopes that its UAE stamp of approval extends to the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority. According to the AP news article, “authorities in Nevada announced they would partner with Ehang to test the 184 to possibly be cleared in the U.S.”
Ehang CFO Shang Hsiao discussed certification roadblocks in a recent Wired interview: “Because the 184 AAV represents an entirely new category of technology, there are regulations and agencies that are still catching up. We are in unchartered waters and are working closely with government agencies across the planet to develop and regulate the future of transportation.”
Dubai’s Bold Vision
Whether it’s the Hyperloop One project or the Ehang 184 AAV drone initiative, one thing is for sure: Dubai is taking giant leaps forward with regard to alternative transportation. Dedicated to clean energy technology and sustainable living, Dubai has quickly become the world’s compass for disruptive eco-technology.