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The Chinese autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) developer EHang has laid out a vision for urban air mobility (UAM) based on autonomously piloted vehicles supervised by centralized command-and-control stations.
EHang — which recently demonstrated its two-seat EHang 216 AAV in North Carolina — details its concept in a new white paper on UAM systems, dated Jan. 15, 2020. According to the paper, UAM systems “will have the best chance at full-scale implementation if they are focused on safety, operated smartly, and connected under the command of a centralized platform.”
Safety considerations will demand that vehicles be equipped with redundant systems, the white paper says, while “smart operation” means that they will be piloted autonomously, “which not only obviates the need for an in-vehicle pilot and the associated costs, but also enhances safety and makes the vehicle more controllable from the ground.
“Finally, cluster management techniques centralized at a ground-based command-and-control center would allow UAM operators to control a multitude of vehicles simultaneously in an orderly and safe manner,” the white paper states. “This way, all flight routes could be pre-registered and pre-determined so that UAM vehicles can travel only between certified ‘base points,’” yielding a structure that resembles “an on-demand bus system rather than a taxi system.”
EHang’s concept clearly advantages its own AAVs, which have been designed to operate autonomously under the control of a centralized platform. This is in contrast to some of the other UAM vehicles it considers in the white paper, such as Joby Aviation’s S4, which is designed to operate with a pilot initially.