US will accelerate drone taxi approvals but trails Dubai, China and New Zealand

U.S. Department of Transportation said it would use the same process to consider approval of drone taxis that would carry passengers and cargo for hire as it does for approving traditional commercial air carriers.

Under U.S. law, the agency must certify that any business carrying people or cargo for hire is economically “fit, willing and able” to perform. Certifying an airline under those regulations can take years, but the DOT can exempt operators that are using smaller or mid-sized aircraft.

Boeing owns Aurora Flight Sciences

Aurora Flight Sciences that focuses on developing the next generation of advanced, autonomous flight systems. Equally capable of supporting both commercial and government customers, the R&T sector specializes in the core technologies of autonomy, electric propulsion, advanced manufacturing, advanced aircraft design, and operations in the global airspace system.

The R&T Sector’s overarching mission is to:

* Put autonomy to work by performing tasks for and with humans
* Enable flight vehicles to operate with increasing levels of autonomy
* Develop technologies for rapid production of low-cost, high-performance aircraft
* Demonstrate and field affordable, high efficiency, and high reliability electric propulsion systems
* Develop innovative aircraft that achieve revolutionary gains in performance and capabilities

China’s EHang passenger drone

Ehang conducted over 1,000 test flights with human passengers, including a 984-foot (300-meter) vertical climb, a weight test carrying over 500 pounds (230 kilograms), a routed test flight covering 9.3 miles (15 kilometers), and a high-speed cruising test that reached 80.7 mph (130 km/h).

Ehang says the 184, which is all electric, can carry a single passenger up to 10 miles or roughly 23 minutes of flight. The person in the cockpit doesn’t do any piloting; they just input their destination and enjoy the ride. The company claims its aircraft is able to take off autonomously, fly a route, sense obstacles, and land. And if anything goes wrong, a human pilot is supposed to step in and take over the controls from a remote command station.

EHANG and the government of Shaoguan, a city in northern Guangdong Province, jointly announced the establishment of strategic cooperation to apply EHANG’s technical prowess in intelligent UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and its flight command and control systems to the integrated government management sectors and innovative tourism industry of Shaoguan, with the aim of making it an leading and model smart city of UAV system applications.

Shaoguan government is to actively push forward the applications of smart UAVs in tasks of its varied functional departments including police, firefighting, disaster prevention & relief, forestry, environmental protection, land management, urban management, public health, tourism, etc., to boost the efficiency of government’s routine supervision, emergency response, coordination management.

Volocopter and EHang are rolling out air taxis in Dubai

In 2017, Volocopter has been testing drone passenger taxis in Dubai

Kitty Hawk, Google co-founder Larry Page company building autonomous planes, has aspirations a partnershipw with New Zealand will lead to a commercial network of taxis in the country in the next three years. Kitty Hawk is already reportedly working on an Uber-like app that will allow customers to hail one of its air taxis.

Kitty Hawk’s self-piloted air taxi is called Cora, which has a wingspan of 36 feet and operates via a dozen battery-powered rotors. It takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, is 100 percent electric, can fly as fast as 110 mph, has a flying distance of 62 miles, and can carry two passengers.