Too Late for Boxing Day*, Ehang Delivers the Goods

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Broadcast live on December 24, this demonstration of the eHang 184 is, interestingly, an English-language presentation, with a lot of English names floating about.

Someone named Mike shows off the Ehang 184 in this Christmas-related special.  His friend Miranda snugs herself into the compact passenger compartment, tries on the safety harnesses, and deplanes before committing aviation.  The video is a sales pitch for the drone manufacturer – actually more of a long wind-up before a pitch into the air.  Mike takes us through a tutorial on the craft, which seats one passenger and has eight propellers that are mounted on four arms (one-eight-four, or 184).

The rather ungainly entrance and exit of the petite young woman suggests possible improvements eHang’s designers might make in the otherwise swoopy-looking gull-wing doors.  They might also consider how to protect the unwary from the knee- and ankle-high 1.6 meter (5.25 feet) propellers.  One hopes the designers have incorporated a safety propeller stop system such as the one designed by Karl Käser at Kasaero in Germany.

The video is a nice once-over for the vehicle, several of which are being tested in Dubai for aerial taxi service.  On its home turf of Guangzhou, China, the commuter takes off with a pack of presents for the little kids in waiting, circles around and lands.  Alistair accepts his gift with proper gratitude.

Most interesting, the large research control center, looking a bit like a James Bond film set, oversees the operation of individual eHangs anywhere in the world, according to Derek Jung, one of the founders and chief marketing officer for the firm.  Somewhere in the background, we hear a very Bond-like lady’s voice making announcements in the large echoing space.  Since a young man with a laptop seems to be controlling the flight of the eHang, one wonders how the screen and auditory inputs will be controlled for multiple missions.

An ambitious set of goals for safety and short-range operations seems doable from this video.  One can quibble about details, but the fact that the company has sorted out the algorithms for control of the eight large propellers is an indicator that they’re doing something right.

One major issue, the location of the propellers, is not an issue with Volocopter’s 2X, also being tested in Dubai.  As these innovative designs show that they can deliver their promised performance, we’ll wait for their greater deployment in the world.

*Boxing Day is an English holiday, which some say was set aside for boxing presents for one’s servants.  This was an early form of regifting, apparently.

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