The Chinese company Ehang, which is engaged in the development of autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology, has conducted the first-ever trial flight of its autonomous flying taxi in the United States. The aircraft flew for five minutes above a test track south of Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday.
The two-seater passenger-grade AAV, EHang 216, uses electric rotors – a total of 16 rotors – and can move along a predetermined route at a cruise speed of about 130 km/h (81 mph). The length of this aircraft is 5.61m, the height is 1.76m and is capable of carrying payloads (cargo or passengers) of up to 260kg. EHang 216 can reach the maximum speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), fly 25 min for a range of 30-40 km (16-22 mi).
The test flight was conducted as part of the North Carolina Transportation Summit hosted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). This also represents the first time that the EHang 216 has received flight approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
This was a non-passenger flight, but the company is working with the FAA to secure approval for a passenger trial flight of the EHang 216 in the near future. According to a representative of Ehang, before testing in the United States, about 2 thousand test flights were conducted in China.
“Our mission is to make safe, autonomous, and eco-friendly air mobility accessible to everyone, and this trial flight represents a significant step towards bringing our urban air mobility solutions to the U.S. market,” said EHang founder, chairman, and CEO Huazhi Hu. “Pilotless air taxis have the power to transform everyday life in urban areas since they can lessen pollution, expedite emergency services, and save individuals and businesses time and money through shorter travel times.”