An Ehang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle performs a test flight in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.
Public use of passenger drones, also known as drone taxis, has yet to become a reality and fully depends on improvements in technological innovation and implementation of supportive policies, according to an industry insider.
"This is a step-by-step process. When it comes to the development and application of any transformative technology, first the technological innovation makes an impact, then policies are created and developed," said Hu Huazhi, founder and CEO of Ehang, which makes aerial vehicles.
Hu made the remarks after Ehang, based in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, unveiled footage of the latest test flights of its autonomous aerial vehicle, or AAV, on Tuesday.
"The improvement of technology and implementation of policies will push further development of the industry," Hu said.
The Ehang 184 series is the world's first passenger drone capable of carrying a single person at up to 130 kilometers per hour and in force 7 typhoon conditions, according to the company.
"These manned test flights are just the latest in a series of tests to ensure that the Ehang 184 AAV will be safe and ready for public use in the near future," Hu said.
Among some 40 passengers who helped in this crucial testing phase were Hu and Wang Dong, vice-mayor of Guangzhou.
"Performing manned test flights enable us to demonstrate the safety and stability of the passenger drones," Hu said.
Hu founded Ehang in 2014, and since then more than 150 technical engineers have conducted thousands of test flights, including a vertical climbing test reaching up to 300 meters, a load test flight carrying about 230 kilograms, a routed test flight covering 15 km and a high-speed cruising test that reached 130 km/h. The Ehang 184 AAV will still see further improvements, according to Hu.
"More emphasis will be placed on improving passenger experience and on adding an optional manual control, giving passengers with piloting experience the choice to operate the vehicle manually," Hu said.