EHang, a Chinese firm, has successfully completed a series of long-distance test flights in restricted airspace with both a two-person EHang 216 drone taxi and a Falcon freight drone. The flights were conducted in Estonia as part of a European initiative looking into new types of air travel. It was the first time a taxi drone flew in Estonian airspace using BVLOS.
EHang performs the first long-range drone taxi test flights.
The EHang 216 is a vertically taking off and landing air taxi powered by electricity (eVTOL). The plane typically seats two people, but the test flights in Estonia were done without passengers. The Estonian Aviation Authority granted a special exemption for the test flights.
Several flights out of sight of the operator (BVLOS) from Tartu Airport to the Estonian Aviation Museum were undertaken during the testing period. That is a distance of slightly under five kilometers as the crow flies. In addition to test flights with the EHang 216 passenger drone, flights with the EHang Falcon freight drone were also conducted. Flying from the airport to a freight terminal to illustrate how freight drones may be deployed autonomously at low altitudes was involved.
Drones and air taxis are being integrated
The tests were part of the European Union’s GOF 2.0 Integrated Urban Airspace Validation project, which focuses on safe, autonomous, and environmentally friendly urban air mobility (Urban Air Mobility), as well as the integration of drones and air taxis into manned operations with air traffic management and U-space services.
EHang has undertaken test flights using drone taxis and delivery drones in 10 countries across Asia, Europe, and North America in recent years. More pilot flights in Europe are planned by the firm to demonstrate that human and unmanned operations can coexist safely in crowded urban airspace utilizing current air traffic management and U-space services and technologies.
Concerning GOF 2.0
The GOF 2.0 project of the European Union intends to offer the technological components (services, software, competencies, procedures) required for BVLOS autonomous and semi-autonomous aircraft to operate cost-effectively in shared urban airspace at low altitudes. The SESAR Joint Undertaking, which is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 innovation initiative, is funding the research.
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