EHang‘s autonomous passenger drone 184 caused a stir at CES in early 2016. In preparation for this year’s CES, the Chinese drone maker released some new updates about what it claims to be the world’s first autonomous helicopter drone.
In a video from the company, the eight-rotor aircraft completes a series of tests, from taking-off and landing, to hovering, maneuvering, altitude recovery, and vertical climbing. According to a company statement, they are now testing autonomous flight test under 4G network while carrying a load.
Different from its debut at CES, where EHang remains quite secretive about the technical specifications of the aircraft, the Chinese drone maker has released some information about its hardware and software, as well as how the product has evolved over the year.
EHang says the third generation propeller has improved has increased aerodynamic efficiency by 10 to 15% and significantly reduced the noise generated by propeller rotation. Previous generations focused on early flight and limit drag.
Its current Battery Management System (BMS) is an industrial-grade solution that monitors the parameters of all cells, including the temperature, current capacity, and voltage.
Given that the aircraft doesn’t allow passengers to control the vehicle, the auxiliary systems play a crucial role in keeping the passengers safe. The company has finished construction of a special flight command center for the EHang 184. Located in Guangzhou, the ground command center will monitor a variety of flight data of EHang 184 as well as air traffic information.
“The command center will not only enable the passengers in the air to make real-time video/voice calls with the ground but also receive real-time flight sensor data from every EHang 184 in the air. This ensures that passengers will understand the real-time flight conditions through one-on-one calls with our ground staff at all times without much tension for the duration of the flight,” explained the company.
The release of all this information comes as the company is trying to win back trust from customers and investors amid a series of recent setbacks. Layoffs, financial problems, as well as news that they have yet to perform a single test flight in the US even with Nevada approval, have all triggered speculation about the health of the company.
When the 184 was first announced, it was widely speculated (in Chinese) that EHang was using it to gain more visibility for its standard-sized consumer drones. This new update shows that the firm may be more serious about the 184 than we previously thought.
However, no release date has been set for the product. From what we have seen, we will still have to wait some time to see an actual demo flight outside of a video.
Image credits: EHang