|EHang 184 the world's first autonomous aerial vehicle|
It took the technology world by storm when it was announced at CES in Las Vegas.
Now a Chinese firm that has build a self flying 'passenger drone' says it could soon begin testing in Nevada.
The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, a state nonprofit group sponsored by the Governor's Office of Economic Development, will work to help EHang test and develop its system, officials said Monday.
'We first met them at the (International) Consumer Electronics Show in 2016,' Mark Barker, the institute's business development director, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal
'Tom Wilczek (the defense aerospace industry representative at the governor's economic development office) and I were there and we went into their booth and we saw this EHang 184 — it caught everybody's attention.
The institute will develop test criteria to help EHang Inc. prove aircraft worthiness to the Federal Aviation Administration.
'We will help them submit necessary test results and reports to the FAA and all that kind of stuff,' Barker said.
'It's a big deal for EHang and it's a big deal for NIAS and the state of Nevada because we will be helping them to test and validate their system.'
This partnership will advance the state's commercial drone industry, Wilczek said in a statement.
'I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada's transportation system,' he said.
EHang expects to begin testing in Nevada later this year.
It is also working to 'revolutionize the way organs are transported in the U.S' by ferrying them by drone.
The firm has revealed a collaboration with Lung Biotechnology PBC to develop and purchase up to 1,000 units of an evolved version of the 184, the world's first autonomous drone for humans, to automate organ transplant delivery.
The two companies have agreed to work together over the course of the next fifteen years to optimize the 184 for organ deliveries, a program which they are calling the Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (MOTH) system.
Lung Biotechnology specializes in manufacturing lungs and other organs for transplant using a variety of technologies, including pig-to-human xenotransplantation, as well as regenerating them from stem cells.
It plans to station the MOTH rotorcrafts outside of its organ manufacturing facilities, and use preprogrammed flight plans to hospitals and re-charging pads within the MOTH radius so that the manufactured organs can be delivered within their post-production window of viability.
This huge shift in organ production and delivery has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.
'We anticipate delivering hundreds of organs a day, which means that the system will help save not only tens of thousands of lives, but also many millions of gallons of aviation transport gasoline annually,' said Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO of Lung Biotechnology.
'The well-known locations of transplant hospitals and future organ manufacturing facilities makes the EHang technology ideal for Highway-In-The-Sky (HITS) and Low-Level IFR Route (LLIR) programs.'
Currently, organ transplants are limited by the number of brain-dead donors, which results in thousands of deaths on organ transplant waiting lists each year.
In the case of lung transplants, only about 2,000 lung procedures are performed annually, whereas over 200,000 people in the U.S. die of end-stage lung disease each year.
However, the firms admit they still face regulatory hurdles - Federal Aviation Administration approval of the MOTH rotorcraft, as well as approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of Lung Biotechnology's xenotransplantation organ products.
The 184, which is an autonomous drone capable of carrying a passenger more than 10 miles through the air at speeds up to 65 miles per hour simply by entering a destination into its accompanying smartphone app, is perfected suited for a variety of medical emergency transport.
After several years of development, EHang unveiled the world's first autonomous aerial vehicle at CES 2016 to great acclaim.
'This is exactly the kind of global impact we envisioned when building the 184,' explained Huazhi Hu, CEO of EHang. 'Partnering with Martine and Lung Biotechnology is an incredible opportunity to bring the 184 to the emergency medical space, and specifically help to revolutionize the organ delivery system in the U.S. It's also representative of our broader dedication to making the EHang 184 and its commercial drones readily available to a number of different industries today.'
The all-electric vehicle has four arms with a total of eight propellers at the end.
'You know how it feels to sit in a Ferrari? This is 10 times better,' George Yan, co-founder of Ehang said in an interview with DailyMail.com at its unveiling.
The company says the 184 is autonomous, so all the passenger has to do is enter in their destination in the smartphone app, sit back, and let the drone take over.
There's no option to take control of the 184 remotely. The cockpit is empty, apart from a stand to place a smartphone or tablet and a cup holder.
'I think in all of us there is that little kid in all of us that says I want to fly,' said Yan. 'I don't want to get a pilot license after five or 10 hours of flying, I want to do it right away. We're making that dream happen.'
'Everything is calculated in the backend to pick the most optimal route for you, so there is no collision with the other drones flying,' said Yan.
'On the drone itself we have built pretty sophisticated back up services so if another system fails then another will take over.'
In the event of an emergency, passengers can also elect to halt flight and simply hover in the air.
The EHang 184, which was named for 'one' passenger, 'eight' propellers, and 'four' arms. When it's not in use, it can be folded up so that it can be stored away more easily.
EHang said the vehicle is primarily designed for traveling short-to-medium distances — around 10 miles — and will fly at around 60 miles per hour.
It takes off and lands vertically, subsequently eliminating the need for runways.
'Mass-adoption of the 184 has the potential to streamline congested traffic and dramatically reduce the kinds of accidents associated with any human-operated vehicle,' the firm claims.
'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,' said EHang CEO Huazhi Hu.
'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 184 has been in development for 2 and a half years, and the company is aiming to release a commercial version later this year, depending on safety tests and future drone regulations.
As well as having to work in the confines of UAV laws, there is also the issue of trust. Would anyone ever trust a drone to fly them to a destination?
'If you roll the timeline back to 100 years you will see that when we went from horse and carriage to vehicles people had the same concerns of whether you could trust it to take you from A to B,' said Yan.
'If you look out the cars out there and unmanned vehicles, you can understand that we can make these technology breakthrough.
You just have to start somewhere.'The 184 uses multiple independent flight control systems to automatically navigate passengers from point A to point B.
These systems combine real-time data collected from sensors throughout the flight and automatically plot the fastest and safest route to carry passengers to their destinations.
The EHang 184 has built in reinforcements for all flight systems, so that in the unlikely event that a component does fail, multiple backups are already in place to seamlessly take over.
The fully ready-to-fly 184 is a manned drone capable of automatically carrying a passenger through the air, simply by entering a destination into its accompanying smartphone app
EHang's independently developed Fail-Safe System ensures that if any components malfunction, or if there's damage while the AAV is in-flight (i.e. from a bird), the aircraft will immediately begin taking the necessary precautions to ensure safety.
The 184's Fail-Safe System automatically evaluates the damage and determines whether the AAV will need to land to ensure its passenger's safety.
The EHang 184 AAV flight control systems have multiple sets of sensors that provide the drone a constant stream of real-time data.
The 184's communication system was also designed with a safety guarantee: every system is encrypted, and each AAV comes with an independent key.
In the event of an emergency, passengers can elect to halt flight and simply hover in the air with just one click.
The EHang 184, was named for 'one' passenger, 'eight' propellers, and 'four' arms. When not in use, it can be folded up. dailymail.co.uk