China-based autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) company EHang has announced plans to build an “eco-sustainable” vertiport in Italy. The company says the vertiport, which is being designed to support its EH216 passenger AAV, will be capable of generating over 300 kW of electricity a day via solar panels. In addition to a landing platform with “plug-and-play” charging infrastructures, the design includes a waiting room, café and panoramic restaurant.
“The vertiport will use green design and construction materials, and can generate energy to recharge the EH216 passenger-grade AAVs,” EHang said. “Vertiports will play a significant role in the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market and the new era of flight. When integrated into the existing transportation infrastructure, vertiports can serve as aerial hubs for tourists.”
The project is being conducted in partnership with Italian architecture firm Giancarlo Zema Design Group (GZDG). The exact location and time frame for construction of the vertiport have not yet been announced. As previously reported by AVweb, EHang launched its first aerial tourism service in Guangdong, China, last December.
Ah, this is going to be so good. According to some, ‘tricity can’t make airplanes fly. Now wait for the regular skeptical contributors made up of senior and retired 1980’s era engineers to comment on how a company full of young, bright and educated Chinese and Italian engineers with millions of dollars in their budgets have no clue of what they’re doing. Make no mistake, this is not a Vern Raburn project, this will happen. Aircraft of all sorts will fly without the aid of 100LL.
Yeah, the AvWeb “Get off my lawn!” peanut gallery is really going to hate this.
The issue isn’t whether or not ‘trictity can make airplanes fly, but whether or not they can pull this off at a reasonable profit. So far a lot of answers from the company amount to either “we’re not telling” or more likely “we don’t know”. How much will it cost to build and certify this thing? (ask, well everyone, how the “we’ll build lots and get the unit cost down” thing goes.) Will it need a pilot or be autonomous? If it’s autonomous how does it fit into the airspace in a congested city? If it needs a pilot what’s that cost? How many people will it carry, and where are they going from and to? What will be a trip cost? Are the citizens of a city who hate cell towers going to put up with these “vertiports” sticking up? I’m sure the engineers have figured out how to make if fly. I’m not sure anyone’s figured out how to make it part of the transportation infrastructure and make it pay. Investors eventually get fed up. Even governments eventually get tired of boondoggles, especially to whisk the well-off about.
People asked those very same questions 25 years ago regarding the internet. Most people back then didn’t believe that money could be made on the internet. Despite that, hundreds (or even thousands) of startups attracted huge amounts of venture capital and the stock market went on a binge as companies like Yahoo, Netscape, Xoom, Altavista, iXL, Razorfish, and scores of others yielded quadruple digit returns for short term investors. None of those companies exist now (except for Yahoo which is now owned by Verizon – not a success story).
But in the aftermath of those fly-by-night stories were also Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Apple, Netflix and many others that are making tons of money.
This is how disruptive technology works. Visionaries see and opportunity and thousands of players jump into the pool. Venture capitalists pour money into these endeavors, placing hundreds of bets looking for the 2 or 3 that will pay off. The mere fact that every week we are seeing one to two articles on AvWeb regarding electric aviation means that this is an industry that is exiting infancy and is about to enter the growth phase. Electric aviation WILL happen and someone will eventually make it profitable. A lot of people will lose money on the way, but that is normal. As another example, in 1895 there were over 1900 automobile manufacturers. 99% of those companies were bankrupt within 20 years. But the automobile clearly did not go away.
At least 90% of the companies we see here on AvWeb that are involved in electric aviation will not be in electric aviation 10 to 20 years from now. But the rest will likely emerge as market leaders. That’s how the macro-economy works.
25 years ago, being already happy internet and car customers we asked the same regarding Moller flying saucer.
Peddling vaporware is profitable for some but it also poisons the environment for startups offering not so revolutionary yet realistic products.
Elton, you may have reserved your skepticism for those details, but there have been more aggressive nay sayers. And, they may still be correct.
Joe, what’s up with the Vern Rayburn attack? Didn’t Eclipse make and sell a lot of jets?
I noticed the article stated that the solar production was expected to be 300 KW of power per day which seems rather insufficient to run a restaurant, recharge multiple EH216s, and provide any power for all of the other features planned. Is this a mis-print, could they mean MegaWatts? Otherwise assuming an average of 12 hours of solar production daily equates to 25 KW per hour average while the sun shines. There will have to be some serious improvements in lots of areas outside aviation to do this without supplemental base-load ground power being consumed.
On the topic of the aircraft themselves – I really hope it works out. The Jetsons were a favorite cartoon of this ’50s child with 50 years of aviation behind him. I’m really looking forward to this expansion of aviation, but they have to hurry…
Where are the solar panels?
Tilted downward and partly shaded is not good design.
On sides of tower would be better?
At some point in the future, I am sure some type of AAV ports will be built. The limiting factor will be money. It always is. There are a lot of issues to be dealt with other than the technology itself. As one of those old guys who has done most of my flying on steam gauges, I have seen a lot of ideas come and go. But, at some point, I am sure something similar to this proposal will happen. As to its affordability and practicality, that is going to be the central issue. (By the way, can anyone tell me what a FMS Is?)
Pick one: https://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/FMS
Within the context of this site, I would say: Flight Management System.
I have a simple request. Before we start building vertiports, could we do one thing? Could someone please demonstrate an electric AAV that can do what the Wright brothers did over 100 years ago? Simply carry one 75 kg person using an all electric AAV 120 feet or 35 meters? Then, please send a press release to AvWeb so they can do a story on it. No, not an unmanned autonomous vehicle, one with a passenger on board not manipulating any controls. Because, that would be great.
I think that’s been surpassed, but I’m not sure what you really mean. The Wright brothers flew with a pilot. That’s been done. Flying with human cargo autonomously has also been done, but it’s illegal most everywhere, right?
No, it has not been surpassed. It hasn’t even been done with an all electric autonomous vehicle with a person on board. Not even by EHang. Also true, it is against regulation, but that doesn’t seem to stop these ventures from raising investments to build vertiports.
I admit my mistake. EHang has flown such an aircraft. Now, let’s make it practical. How about the next stage? Before we build a vertiport, lets carry 2 people autonomously the length of Manhattan Island, 20 km.
What is Eco-sustainable?
Nearly ten years ago I told my phone to have a pizza and six pack delivered to my anchored out boat and pay with bitcoin…. still waiting.
I’m optimistic but, let’s risk the life of pizza and cheap beer for a couple years before we start loading people into autonomous vehicles. That goes for ground autonomous vehicles also….. Patients, Baby Steps.
The hurdles are legal, not technical. It’s a shame, but your congressman is the person to speak with.
Both actually. Tesla can’t get autonomous driving past level 2. Autonomous E-copters don’t respond to calls from atc well and don’t go very far. Check out the weight of a Tesla. Batteries are heavy.
If you had paid for pizza and beer ten years ago in Bitcoin you’d be crying in your beer at the memory of it today.
It was done, btw
Bitcoin Pizza Day is the annual celebration of the first known Bitcoin transaction for a physical product. On 22 May 2010, a young US engineer and crypto enthusiast, Laszlo Hanyecz, paid a fellow user a staggering 10,000 BTC for 2 Papa John pizzas. That amount of BTC is now worth a staggering $440 million at today’s price (February 2021) of roughly $42,000/BTC. Yes, that’s $440,000,000 dollars!
Actually, every time a story like this comes up I prepare for the inevitable pre-emptive lectures and scolding from the “Yeah, it’s gonna happen and it’s only YOU old guys and Luddites that are holding it up” crowd. Pre-emptive in an attempt to stifle commenting contrary to their position.
Gursh durn eletropacity flappy flappity. Back in muh dey, we flew lighted airways. And if it went VMC middle of the night, you’d death spiral all the way down with a grin on your face.
AND WE LIKED IT!