Passenger drone that can fly at 80mph is exhibited in China

The drone was shown off in Guangzhou (Getty)
The drone was shown off in Guangzhou (Getty)

A drone big enough to carry human passengers was exhibited in China this week, and manufacturer EHang hopes that the machine could soon work like a flying taxi.

The EHang 216 has a top speed of 80mph and is autonomous, receiving signals via a 4G or 5G phone network from a command and control centre.

It can carry a payload of up to 220kg and has a range of up to 20 miles.

The aircraft is fully electric-powered and can be charged off the mains in one hour, EHang says.

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It requires no runway to take off.

EHang said: “The technology of autonomous flight eliminates the possibility of failure or malfunction caused by man-made errors.

“Without any concern about controlling or operating the aircraft, the passengers can just sit and enjoy the journey.”

An unmanned Air Taxi EHANG 216 takes off during a press preview of FACC AG on "Urban Air Mobility" at Generali Arena in Vienna, Austria on April 4, 2019. - China's EHANG and Austrian FACC AG plan to produce 300 Taxi drones by 2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
An unmanned Air Taxi EHang 216 takes off in 2019 (JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The company was granted a world-first licence to use drones to carry freight in China earlier this year.

Hu Huazhi, EHang’s founder, chairman and CEO, said: “We are thrilled that the CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China) and EHang took the lead on the world’s first commercial pilot operation approval of passenger-grade AAVs (autonomous aerial vehicle) for air logistics uses. This approval is of great significance.

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“For EHang, it enables us to enhance our first-mover advantage and accelerate the commercialisation of AAV technology and air mobility solutions for logistics.

“It also lays a foundation for regulators around the world to jointly explore and establish a coordinated, supportive and sustainable regulatory environment. This will benefit the long-term development of the promising Urban Air Mobility (UAM) applications.”

Ooredoo taxi drone from Ehang Company, exhibited a convertible taxi drone during the Mobile World Congress, on February 26, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.   (Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A taxi drone model is shown off at Mobile World Congress (Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Test flights of passenger drones have already been completed by AeroMobil in Slovakia and Kitty Hawk in the US.

Experts have predicted that the flying car market could be worth up to $1 billion by 2030.

The biggest barrier to flying cars is regulation, especially in the UK where the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sets the rules.

The CAA has said that any flying vehicle would be treated in exactly the same way as other light aircraft and it would be “many years” before they could fly without a pilot.

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