Commercial

EHang Passenger Drone Continues Development and Testing

By S.L. Fuller | February 13, 2017
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EHang 184

Photo courtesy of EHang

EHang has greeted the new year with several milestones from 2016 in hand. The EHang 184 passenger-carrying drone has been flying, has a new command and control center, and has undergone hardware and software testing, the company said.

As of the beginning of January, the company said, the drone has achieved some success in point-to-point flight testing. The company is now working toward an autonomous flight test under 4G network with load. One particular issue EHang mentioned with the multi-rotor is in-air stability. Last year the company’s engineers optimized algorithms and the performance of some hardware components, bringing flight stability, and hover and flight route accuracy. Engineers were also able to fully automate flight commands.

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Other hardware and software is currently going through research, development and testing. Three versions of the aircraft’s rotor blades have been designed, built to reduce noise and increase aerodynamic efficiency. Two different testbeds have been developed, as well as a host computer system for the testbed. Motors for the EHang 184 have also been upgraded to the third-generation iteration, as have the electronic speed controllers. This new motor can conduct sweep frequency experiments and detect real-time motor speed and motor rotation. EHang had to develop its own flight control system, which currently has full redundancy design with two system sets, each with two sets of sensors that can communicate with each other. The flight control system has begun to conduct simulation tests based on virtual prototype. Also in the third-generation variant is the battery management system. The upgrade is a high-pressure version with greater battery capacity.

The EHang Command and Control Center got up and running last year, functioning as a ground command center to monitor a variety of flight data for the EHang 184 and dispatch air traffic. Passengers in the air would be able to make video and voice calls to the ground station, and the ground station would be able to receive real-time flight sensor data. Not all capabilities are functional yet, but EHang sees command center as a vital project.

“Admittedly, the grandness and arduousness of this project is not as a simple future science fiction as people imagined,” EHang said. “We believe the autonomous aerial transportation ecosystem will only be successful with the participations of policy makers, regulators, entrepreneurial vehicle designer and manufacturers, application service providers, and many other partners and stakeholders from across the globe, who will be keen to interact with one another to shape the ecosystem together.”

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