Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang is known for its striking passenger drones. The company made headlines when it unveiled the first-ever passenger drone the Ehang 184. Since then, passenger drones have come a long way. Governments across the world are formulating regulations to allow passenger drones to operate in their airspace. In May 2021, Ehang had revealed their newest passenger drone the Ehang VT – 30 which promises an even longer range and eco-friendly inter-city travel.
The VT – 30 is a Hybrid Passenger Drone
The VT – 30 is a two-seater drone with eight propellers for VTOL and two wings for long-distance travel. The passenger drone adopts a hybrid functionality even in terms of design. The VT – 30’s primary design is slightly different from the Ehang 216. The main body is more aerodynamic to minimize drag. Apart from that, the drone has received a tail and wings as added parts to increase its functionality.
Ehang stated that this drone will complement the 216, which is meant for intracity travel. According to the company, the VT – 30 has a range of 300km and a maximum flight time of 100 minutes. Compared to other passenger drones in the same segment such as Heaviside by Kitty Hawk, the VT – 30 has almost twice the range in a compact package. It utilizes the VTOL benefits of a rotorcraft and the performance upgrades of a fixed-wing drone.
“Our passenger-grade AAV EH216 is already fully equipped to travel in the cities with its lightweighted and streamlined structure, and the launch of the VT-30 provides a powerful complement to the inter-city air traffic network by meeting needs for covering longer distance,” said Mr. Huazhi Hu, Founder, Chairman and CEO of EHang, “Moving forward, these two product series will be used as core development for a service-oriented operations strategy to improve the safety, duration and capacity for carrying both passengers and goods. We will work continuously to obtain regulatory certification for our various AAV products, including the VT-30, and provide a more convenient and efficient public urban air mobility operational services.”
Among the many safety features is a tri-redundancy fly-by-wire control system that can be altered into multiple modes. This greatly increases the safety rating of the drone. As of now, Ehang aims to test and operate the VT – 30 in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Yangtze River Delta, Bohai Rim, etc.
Passenger Drones Closer to Reality
Passenger drones are a fascinating mobility concept that is inching closer to reality every year. Ehang has already gotten test flight approvals from Japan, Canada, and Austria. American company Kitty Hawk has also been testing its EVTOL passenger drones rigorously. If looked at as a personal vehicle replacement, passenger drones may be viable in another 4-5 years. However, to implement it as a means of public transport would require not only more time but also a complex set of regulations. You can read more about the timeline of passenger drones here.