Architecture

EHang announces plans for tree-inspired Italian vertiport

EHang announces plans for tree...
There is currently no word on when construction of the tower will begin
There is currently no word on when construction of the tower will begin
View 3 Images
There is currently no word on when construction of the tower will begin
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There is currently no word on when construction of the tower will begin
Inspired by the African baobab tree, the structure will take the form a 30-meter-tall (98-ft) tower constructed of steel and laminated wood
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Inspired by the African baobab tree, the structure will take the form a 30-meter-tall (98-ft) tower constructed of steel and laminated wood
An aerial view of the vertiport
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An aerial view of the vertiport
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Although we may like to imagine "air taxis" picking us up wherever we want, the fact is they will likely be limited to specific landing locations. With that in mind, Chinese air mobility company EHang has announced plans for a "vertiport" in Italy.

Currently the subject of a stock market controversy, EHang is developing an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) vehicle that should be capable of picking up either one or two passengers – depending on the model – then autonomously flying them to their destination. To the company's credit, it has reportedly already delivered 40 functioning air taxis to customers for testing, training and demonstration purposes.

The just-announced vertiport is being designed in partnership with Italian architecture firm Giancarlo Zema Design Group (GZDG), as part of EHang's efforts to build its presence within the European Union market. Inspired by the African baobab tree, the structure will take the form a 30-meter-tall (98-ft) tower constructed of steel and laminated wood.

An aerial view of the vertiport
An aerial view of the vertiport

Passengers will take an elevator to the takeoff and landing platform on the roof terrace. Immediately below that terrace will be a waiting room and a 200 sq m (2,153 sq ft) panoramic restaurant.

Additionally, plans call for an array of photovoltaic panels to generate over 300 kilowatts of power per day – some of this will go to three independent plug-and-play charging stations, for use by the two-passenger EH216 eVTOLs landing on the roof.

It should be noted that while EHang is aiming its vehicles mainly at use within urban centers, the vertiport is being designed with the eco-tourism industry in mind – air taxis will pick passengers up at the tower, then take them on sightseeing tours of the surrounding countryside. The exact location of the Italian vertiport has yet to be announced, but the company states that additional structures are planned for other places in Europe and Southeast Asia.

Source: EHang

View gallery - 3 images
7 comments
7 comments
dan
Good thinking! If this landing tower could be 1000 feet tall, eVTOLs could eliminate their 1000 feet death zone in case of electric/system failure, bird strike or computer/software problems. Then eVTOLs could deploy a parachute within these 1000 feet remaining before impact and therefore land "more or less safely" thanks to the parachute/safety hight of the tower. Good thinking of EHang!
Mike Trites
@dan, The tower might help a little bit with that, but 1000 feet is almost as tall as the empire state building, about the size of the chrysler building. I can't imagine that they're going to be building structures the size of the chrysler building for each of their locations.
dan
@ Mike, thanks, I maybe was too enthusiastic about overcoming the 1000 feet death zone of all these eVTOLs... A tower might solve this potentially deadly problem, but of course building thousands of towers is not a practicable solution... Any better idea to make eVTOLs safer and more realistic to fulfil all these safety issues?
gettodacessna
@dan If the design is done properly and contains an adequate amount of system redundancy (backups), the failure of one part will not cause a large risk. Multiple failures can be assumed rare. So if you have 18 motors, and one of them fails, you won't just fall out of the sky. If you have a battery split in two halves and one of them fails, then you won't fall out of the sky. Do this for all the systems, and there's no need to worry about the 1000' "Death Zone" because it's likely you'll never get into that situation where there is no backup available. It's an issue that's overblown by people who don't understand the concept of redundant design - because on little airplanes there's usually no redundancy (1 motor, 1 fuel tank (maybe 2), 1 flow controller, 1 heat exchanger, etc, etc...). The challenge for the design is then: how much backup do you need? That's why all these new eVTOL designs have so many props, etc...
gettodacessna
With relation to the article, it would be very disappointing but also somewhat not surprising if eHang does turn out to be a scam.
Buzzclick
The renders show 3 towers in close proximity. That's a one noisy neighborhood. If it's done in a remote eco-tourist area, the animals may move away. Building towers to cater to these quad copters also takes away some of their eco creds. If eHang solves the noise issue, these quads will fly off the shelves.
dan
@gettodacessna, thanks. The safest design is usually a simple one, e.g. with a solid wing or parachute... ok, let’s face it: the titanic cannot sink, nuclear power plants cannot blow off and software never fail. Working myself in the aircraft industry I may state that engines do fail, birds collide, software are a miracle (ask Boing...). Safety is most often achieved by simplicity, at least in smaller aircrafts. Redundancy is neither good for your wallet nor for the performance/payload of an aircraft, this is critical anyway for eVTOLs. Nice, if a second computer controls number one and a third one takes over if controller one and two are stuck... But it might be safer and cheaper flying with an aerodynamically stable aircraft without the need of all these systems! Most of today’s aircrafts can at least glide/autorotate safely to the ground when (not if) fatal system failures occur. In aircraft design, you shall opt for safety. Please tell all birds only to knock out the numbers of props allowed in the manuals of these eVTOLs! I would feel safer landing on a 1000 feet tower!