Skip to main content
Move the World.
air taxi

Lead image courtesy of EHang

In 2016, the Chinese company EHang unveiled the world's first autonomous flying taxi, the EHang 184.

Now, it's ready to do something else that's never been done before: build the world's first drone air taxi terminal.

The Autonomous Air Taxi

On April 22, EHang announced plans to build the world's first air taxi terminal in Hezhou, China, to support flights of its two-seater flying taxi, the EHang 216.

"Our mission is to make safe, autonomous, and eco-friendly air mobility accessible to everyone."

Hu Huazhi

The 27,000-square-foot terminal will be three-stories tall, with the first floor serving as a reception hall and the second as a passenger waiting area.

The third floor will be the roof-top departure and arrival zone, which will accommodate the simultaneous take-off or landing of up to four EHang 216s at once.

In total, EHang plans to operate 20 of the self-flying taxis at the facility, which it expects to have built and ready for action by the end of 2020.

Aerial Sightseeing

Each EHang 216 features eight arms, with 16 total propellers, giving it a flying time of about 21 minutes and a range of 9.9 miles.

While that short range greatly limits the vehicle's ability to actually transport passengers anywhere, it is ideal for another purpose: aerial sightseeing.

Hezhou is known for its stunning natural scenery, with forests covering more than 70% of its land. EHang hopes tourists will flock to its air taxi terminal to enjoy a brief birds-eye view of the beauty.

"Hezhou is a beautiful city with rich tourism resources and we are excited to enhance their appeal with our AAVs (autonomous aerial vehicles)," EHang CEO Hu Huazhi said in the announcement.

air taxi

EHang CEO Hu Huazhi and EHang CSO Edward Xu introducing a model of the air taxi terminal. Credit: EHang

American Debut

Even before it announced plans to build the world's first air taxi terminal, EHang was already having a landmark year.

In January, it demonstrated the EHang 216 in North Carolina after receiving its first-ever approval from the FAA to fly over U.S. soil.

There weren't any humans onboard the air taxi used for that demo, but the jaunt does set the stage for future FAA approvals of flights with passengers.

"Our mission is to make safe, autonomous, and eco-friendly air mobility accessible to everyone," Hu said in a news release, "and this trial flight represents a significant step towards bringing our air mobility solutions to the U.S. market."

Breaking into Europe

Just two months later, EHang made strides in establishing a foothold in Europe, receiving operational permits in both Norway and Spain.

In Spain, the company will work with the governments of Llíria and Seville to launch air taxi pilot programs, exploring all the ways AAVs might help alleviate their cities' transportation woes — and, in the case of Seville, potentially bring in more tourist dollars.

"(A)s a popular tourist city, we hope to open up flying routes for sightseeing so that visitors from around the world can experience the spectacular cityscape of Seville by air," Hu said.

We'd love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at tips@freethink.com.

Up Next

Future of Cities
Getting Aerial Ridesharing Off the Ground
Getting Aerial Ridesharing Off the Ground
Future of Cities
Getting Aerial Ridesharing Off the Ground
It’s been the ultimate futuristic dream for decades: flying cars! But now, the future finally has a deadline. At least to start, it will land in the form of a small air taxi operated by Uber, not something you’ll park in your garage.

It’s been the ultimate futuristic dream for decades: flying cars! But now, the future finally has a deadline. At least to start, it will land in the form of a small air taxi operated by Uber, not something you’ll park in your garage.

How Drones are Changing Disaster Relief
How Drones are Changing Disaster Relief
Watch Now
How Drones are Changing Disaster Relief
As Hurricane Florence hits, here's a look at how drones are changing disaster relief.
Watch Now

Drone technology is fundamentally changing the way we respond to natural disasters. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, rescue teams used drones extensively to map and triage affected areas, while utility and cellular providers used them to inspect damage and prioritize repairs. Cheap to operate and with the ability to cover widespread areas, drones are changing the game when it comes to cleaning up disaster zones. ...

Drones
New Tech Could Finally Change Drone Regulations for the Better
drone regulations
Drones
New Tech Could Finally Change Drone Regulations for the Better
FAA drone regulations require pilots to have a visual line of sight of their aircraft, but new detect-and-avoid systems could change that.

FAA drone regulations require pilots to have a visual line of sight of their aircraft, but new detect-and-avoid systems could change that.

Innovation
In the US, Rural Hospitals Are Closing. Can Medical Drones Fill This Healthcare Gap?
In the US, Rural Hospitals Are Closing. Can Medical Drones Fill This Healthcare Gap?
Innovation
In the US, Rural Hospitals Are Closing. Can Medical Drones Fill This Healthcare Gap?
“Whether you live in the developed world or the developing world, the further you travel outside of a major city,...
By Kaitlin Ugolik

“Whether you live in the developed world or the developing world, the further you travel outside of a major city, the harder it is for you to access the medicine you need to stay healthy and alive.”

Self-Driving Cars are Finally Here. Sort Of.
Self-Driving Cars are Finally Here. Sort Of.
Self-Driving Cars are Finally Here. Sort Of.
Uber rolled out self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, but they're not totally autonomous. Yet. Under Pennsylvania law,...
By Mike Riggs

Uber rolled out self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, but they're not totally autonomous. Yet. Under Pennsylvania law, every car still needs an operator.

Funding Health Care with Coffee
Funding Health Care with Coffee
Watch Now
Funding Health Care with Coffee
What if your daily coffee helped save a life?
Watch Now

Pheo Coffee isn’t your everyday coffee company — it’s paying for critical medical treatments in developing countries. Founder and physician Larry Istrail saw that millions of people worldwide were suffering because they couldn’t pay for basic medical care — while in America we're drinking millions of cups of coffee a day. He decided to make a difference by starting a coffee company whose proceeds would go toward creating a...

Dispatches
Driverless Cars Go Off-roading
Driverless Cars Go Off-roading
Dispatches
Driverless Cars Go Off-roading
Computer-game simulations can train self-driving cars to navigate in the real world.
By Matthew Doude, Christopher Goodin, and Daniel Carruth

Computer-game simulations can train self-driving cars to navigate in the real world.

Leslie Dewan on Learning from Failure
Leslie Dewan
Watch Now
Leslie Dewan on Learning from Failure
Dr. Leslie Dewan, CEO of nuclear power startup Transatomic, discusses the importance of entrepreneurs' ability to...
Watch Now

Dr. Leslie Dewan, CEO of nuclear power startup Transatomic, discusses the importance of entrepreneurs' ability to bounce back and learn from failure.