Chinese autonomous aerospace vendor EHang Holdings has launched a short-to-medium haul, autonomous logistics drone for urban and rural areas.
The EHang 216L can haul a payload of 440 lb (200kg), which EHang claims is the largest for multi-rotor drones for aerial logistics. The all-electric drone features eight arms and 16 motors and propellers with a fully redundant safety design.
EHang said the heavy lift drone opens new use cases that require frequent and point-to-point flight tasks. The EHang 216L could transport agricultural products to help boost local economies in areas where there are poor conditions or hard to reach areas. The drone could also be deployed to deliver supplies or oil samples for offshore rigs autonomously, replenishing supplies in busy international ports. The drone could also be used in emergency situations for supply transport and in disaster relief.
The urban air mobility logistics market is forecast to reach $46 billion by 2023, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 740%, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan. China is projected to be the largest regional market for air mobility logistics by 2023, accounting for 45% of the global logistics air market.
EHang has been developing autonomous air mobility aircraft for the past few years including the EHang 184, a ready-to-fly electric manned air taxi that can take off and land vertically requiring no runways. Two years ago, EHang made waves by claiming to be the first flying car (again the EHang 184) to carry an actual passenger in Lianyungang city, a prefecture-level city in Jiangsu province in China. The travelers flew in a remote area of the city to other parts of the city and back again.
EHang said that aerial logistics are expected to be one of the initial commercial applications of autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) as the aircraft are higher in efficiency but lower in emissions than conventional ground transportation. The EHang 216L will join the smaller cargo drones in EHang’s fleet including the medium-sized Falcon B and the smaller-sized GS 2.0X.