As reported by ORF and CNBC, the taxi drone EHang 216 conducted its first demonstration flight in Vienna on 4 April 2019. EHang 216 is an autonomous aerial vehicle that can seat two passengers, reach a speed of up to 160 km/h and has a range of around 70 to 80 kilometres. The vehicle is electrically operated, and efforts are being taken to ensure it is barely audible at a distance of 15 to 20 metres. Thus, the taxi drone sets a remarkable benchmark in terms of air pollution control and aircraft noise.
EHang is a Chinese technology company specialising in autonomous air mobility. Last year, it entered into a strategic partnership with the leading Austrian aerospace company FACC to foster development, inter alia, in the field of urban air mobility. FACC took over the production of EHang's air taxis. In the second half of 2019, FACC expects to build the first air taxis for mass production. The Austrian company has already received numerous orders for air taxis, the cost of which amount to approximately EUR 300,000 per unit. The first vehicles will be sent to Asia.
While in Asia air taxi operations are likely to start within the next 12 to 18 months, the feasibility of passenger drone operations will take longer to determine in Europe. Even if EU Member States have progressively been establishing legislation on drone operations, urban air mobility will require significant evolution in regulation. The Austrian minister of transport is however confident that Austria will have flying taxis by 2025.
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