Are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles the Answer to Curbing Pandemics Such as Coronavirus?

  • EHang is a company out of Guangzhou, China.
  • EHang press claimed their product was used to deliver medical equipment in the state of quarantine.
  • As anything new on the market, it could be the greatest new alternative method of delivery or could end up being a fiasco.

The Chinese company EHang announced the signing of an agreement with the Spanish government for development of infrastructure in the city of Seville to provide the services of their unmanned air taxis. The service is meant to reduce traffic congestion on the ground. The City of Seville experiences traffic jams, especially during the tourist season, between the old part of the city and historic sites within the city limits.

EHang is a company out of  Guangzhou. Its specialty is to develop and manufacture autonomous aerial vehicles and passenger AAVs. Their products are already being tested in China. The main focus prior has been aerial photography. EHang was founded in 2014 and raised $42 million in a Series B round in 2015. The first prototype was shown in 2016. The company began publicly trading on NASDAQ in December 2019.

The  agreement assumes that the air taxi service will be created on the basis of the EHang 216 unmanned vehicles. The vehicle is equipped with an electrical installation and is capable of transporting two people or cargo weighing up to 260 kilograms. The EHang is made by using composite material with carbon fiber, epoxy, and an aerial aluminum alloy. The car can reach speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour; the range of an air taxi is 70 kilometers. The approximate cost of each aerial vehicle is between $200,000-$300,000. To compare, a smaller scale helicopter costs around $300,000.  A small but proven helicopter such as the Robinson R44 Raven costs $355,000 brand new. It has a 350 mile range and can transport three passengers at 4,000 feet.

China has been deploying aerial vehicles during the Coronavirus pandemic to curb the spread of the virus. A EHang press claimed their product was used to deliver medical equipment to the hospitals due to shortages during the quarantine. Another use is transporting patients to the hospitals.

Nevertheless, the question remains how safe such an aerial vehicle is and will it able to prevent catastrophes. Thus far, the vehicle has not shown a lot of tested data. The true risks will only be assessed once the main production batch arrives. The first batch of the aerial vehicles is expected to be delivered by 2021.

It could be the best solution for delivering medical supplies and much needed emergency supplies in general. As far as transporting passengers, it has its own risks. As anything new on the market, it could be the greatest new alternative method of delivery or could end up being a fiasco. The company has not proven itself on the market as of yet.

EHang is hopping to increase its market share and to secure its position in the aerospace field.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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