EHang flies out rapid responder, firefighting drone
So far, much of the development focus of China's EHang has been on providing air taxi and air tourism services, but now the air mobility company has its eyes on proving the versatility of its autonomous aerial vehicle platform with the launch of a firefighting version of its two-person multi-rotor flying pod.
Back in May, EHang secured approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China to use its air taxis for heavy lift logistics, and the latest variant of the EHang 216 puts that capability to good use by carrying up to 150 liters of foam and six extinguisher bombs per trip to high-rise fires within a 5 km (3.1 mi) radius of the station where they're based.
Upon arrival at the scene, the 216F makes use of a visible light zoom camera to locate the fire, hovers in position and uses a laser guidance system to launch a window breaker, followed by extinguisher bombs and finally sprays the flames with foam.
China has a good many tall buildings, and out of 233,000 fires reported in 2019, according to a survey undertaken by China Fire Magazine, nearly 7,000 were in high-rise buildings. With a maximum flight altitude of 600 m (1,968 ft), the 216F should be of use for all but the tallest. EHang also points to significantly shorter response times thanks to the autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) zooming over inner city traffic.
Though no performance specs have been released for this version, the passenger 216 can reach a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph) and has a maximum flight time of 21 minutes. Thanks to its autonomous flying capabilities and with the help of centralized management technologies, a fleet of firefighting AAVs could be remotely dispatched as a first response to a high-rise fire up to 5 km from base.
"We are pleased to introduce the EHang 216F AAV aerial firefighting solution, which solves difficult challenges in high-rise firefighting," said EHang's Huazhi Hu. "The high-rise fire use case highlights the practical application of our passenger-grade AAV platform to different smart city management needs. The potential of our intelligent AAV technology platform is boundless. We will explore and develop more aerial solutions and use cases to empower smart cities."
The EHang 216F has initially launched in China, but the company has plans to release the firefighting flyer globally in the future. The video below shows the aerial firefighting solution in action.