The age of drones has swiftly taken over our technological landscape, transforming a multitude of industries with their multifaceted capabilities. Amidst this revolution, a captivating question arises: can a drone carry a person? The answer is a fascinating yes. Today, the concept of passenger drones, also known as eVTOL (Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) drones, is not merely a figment of imagination, but a blossoming reality. Several pioneering companies have not only conceptualised this futuristic mode of transportation but have also successfully carried out trials.
This promising advancement is reshaping our perception of what drones can achieve, pushing the boundaries of innovation and redefining the future of transportation. As we delve into this captivating topic, we’ll explore the mechanics of drones, the feasibility of eVTOL drones, and the challenges and regulations shaping this burgeoning field.
What are Drones?
Drones, also known as UAVs, can be operated remotely or autonomously. They come in different sizes and shapes, from small handheld devices to large aircraft capable of carrying heavy payloads. They are equipped with sensors, cameras, GPS systems, and other advanced technology that makes them highly versatile machines.
Common Uses of Drones
Drones have revolutionised many industries across the globe. One common use is in the photography and videography industries, where they provide stunning aerial shots that were previously impossible to capture without expensive equipment or helicopters.
Another common use is in precision agriculture, where drones help farmers monitor crop growth and detect any problems early on. Moreover, drones also play a critical role in search-and-rescue missions by assisting authorities in finding missing persons or surveying disaster-stricken areas.
Drones can also deliver medicine, food, and light household items; drone delivery services like DroneUp, FlyTrex, and Zipline have started delivery services in certain parts of the USA. Zipline are probably the most well-known drone delivery company, having started delivering vital medical supplies in Rwanda. They have expanded to other countries and eventually want to be the premier drone delivery service in the USA.
But can eVTOL drones carry people? Yes, they can, and as you will find out, some of these drones have been in the trial and testing phase for a few years.
What Is Urban Air Mobility?
Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is a term used to describe a future transport system where air vehicles, particularly those that can take off and land vertically (known as eVTOLs), are used to transport people and goods within urban areas. The goal of UAM is to alleviate congestion on the ground, reduce travel times, and provide new modes of transportation that can integrate with existing ground-based systems.
UAM represents a significant shift in the way we think about transport and has the potential to radically change urban planning and logistics. The types of vehicles proposed for use in UAM include autonomous drones, piloted eVTOL aircraft, and potentially even passenger-carrying drones.
However, there are significant challenges to implementing UAM, including regulatory hurdles, technological constraints, infrastructure needs, and public acceptance. Despite these challenges, many companies are investing in the development of UAM technology and infrastructure, with some preliminary testing and operations already taking place.
Can a Drone Carry a Person?
Yes, a drone can indeed carry a person and not just one person, but many drone can carry up to 5 passengers. This has been made possible with the advent of a specialised type of drone known as an eVTOL, or Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing drone. These drones, often referred to as passenger drones or air taxis, are designed to carry humans and have a significantly larger size and payload capacity compared to traditional unmanned drones.
eVTOL drones represent a convergence of various technologies, including electric propulsion, advanced aerodynamics, and autonomous flight systems. They are designed to take off and land vertically, much like a helicopter, which allows them to operate in urban areas and other places where runway space is limited.
Several companies around the world are developing and testing eVTOL drones, with some even conducting successful passenger flights. These drones, with their ability to alleviate ground traffic congestion and reduce travel times, hold great promise for revolutionising urban transportation in the future.
eVTOL Drones That Can Carry A Person
Although numerous aerospace companies have initiated research and development in this field, only a handful have achieved success in building and flying eVTOL vehicles.
Ehang is one of the pioneers in taxi or passenger drones; as far as I am aware, they were one of the first companies to successfully test-fly their original eVTOL, the Ehang 216.
EHang’s Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) is a groundbreaking innovation in the field of urban air mobility. As the world’s first electric passenger-grade autonomous drone, it’s designed to offer a safe, environmentally friendly, and intelligent solution for various urban transportation needs, including passenger travel, logistics transportation, sightseeing, and even medical rescue.
This cutting-edge vehicle is built with a strong focus on safety, autonomous flight, and centralised control. It eliminates the risk of human error through its autonomous flight capability, allowing passengers to enjoy the journey without concerns about controlling the vehicle. Its vertical takeoff and landing ability also means it doesn’t require extensive infrastructure like airports, making it an ideal solution for easing urban congestion.
The EHang AAV operates on electric power, underlining its commitment to sustainability. It reduces emissions and can be fully charged within two hours.
Communication safety is ensured through high-speed wireless transmission, while the command-and-control centre can intervene in case of emergencies to ensure passenger and aircraft safety.
An essential part of EHang’s commitment to safety and quality is the rigorous testing that each AAV undergoes, including static tests, load tests, durability tests, environmental tests, and anti-interference tests. As a result of its stringent quality control measures, EHang has received the AS9100D International Aerospace & Aviation Quality Management System Standard certification. Watch one of their test flights in Japan.
Wisk Aero Generation 6 Evtol drone
Wisk Aero’s Generation 6 eVTOL drone symbolises a significant breakthrough in the Advanced Air Mobility Industry. This all-electric, self-piloting air taxi has been engineered for passenger transportation, marking a new chapter in future mobility solutions.
Designed with a spacious interior, the Generation 6 eVTOL comfortably accommodates four passengers along with their luggage. A standout feature is
its commitment to inclusivity, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can access the service. The aircraft operates entirely on electric power and offers autonomous functioning, overseen by human supervisors.
The Generation 6 eVTOL boasts impressive specifications: a cruising altitude between 2500 to 4000 feet, a sub-50-foot wingspan, and a range of 90 miles. It maintains a cruising speed of 110-120 knots and features an impressively short charge time of 15 minutes.
Representing a decade of progressive development since 2010, the Generation 6 eVTOL encapsulates Wisk Aero’s commitment to innovatively safe and accessible everyday flight options for everyone.
Volocopter – VoloCity Drone
Volocopter is a German company that has made huge strides in the urban air mobility industry. Every part of a customer’s journey will be developed by Volocopter. They have two passenger drones, the VoloCity and VoloRegion; they also have a cargo or delivery drone called the Volodrone.
The company has developed plans for their own vertiports called Voloports and are developing their own flight management software called VoloIQ.
Volocopter’s VoloCity air taxi, designed with 18 rotors and two seats, possesses the unique ability for vertical takeoff and landing. With multiple iterations and over 1,500 test flights to its credit, VoloCity demonstrates an innovative approach to urban transportation.
Its operation offers a quieter, zero-emission alternative for transit between crucial transport junctions such as railway stations and airports.
Volocopter prioritises safety, outfitting the VoloCity air taxi with redundant systems. Critical components such as rotors, electric motors, batteries, avionics, and display units have backup systems in place, ensuring beyond-par technical compliance and bolstering reliability.
VoloCity air taxi has secured permits for test flights in cities including Hamburg, Dubai, Helsinki, and Singapore. While initial operations will be manned, the long-term plan is to transition to fully autonomous service.
VoloCity is powered by electricity, using rechargeable batteries, positioning it as an eco-friendly and cost-effective transport solution. It minimises fuel dependency and simplifies maintenance requirements.
Volocopter – VoloRegion Drone
This is another eVTOL passenger drone from Volocopter; this is slightly larger than the VoloCity and has a longer range.
This longer-range, fixed-wing passenger aircraft embodies a blend of performance and sustainability. It is equipped with two propulsion fans, six electric motors and rotors and has the capacity to carry four passengers over distances up to 100 kilometres. Travelling at a maximum airspeed of 250 km/h and a cruising speed of 180 km/h, the VoloRegion is designed to bring communities closer together and make out-of-town tasks more conveniently accessible.
Emphasising flight efficiency, passenger comfort, and safety, the VoloRegion adopts a lift-and-cruise design coupled with a high lift-to-drag ratio. Its fully electric drive and battery-swap system further accentuate its commitment to sustainability.
Notably, the VoloRegion is fully integrated into Volocopter’s ecosystem, incorporating the VoloIQ and VoloPort vertiports, ensuring a smooth, high-quality in-flight experience.
Volocopters standing as one of the world’s most advanced and safest air taxi operators stems from their extensive experience and knowledge gained from over 1,000 test flights with the VoloCity. The VoloRegion maintains these high standards, offering whisper-quiet and all-electric operation that not only minimises noise pollution but also enhances public acceptance.
Lilium is a German aviation company that focuses on developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for regional air mobility. Established in 2015 by Daniel Wiegand, Sebastian Born, Patrick Nathen, and Matthias Meiner, the company aims to revolutionise transportation by offering sustainable, high-speed air mobility solutions that are both efficient and accessible.
Their most notable product is the Lilium Jet, a pioneering aircraft powered by electric jet engines.
The Lilium Jet is designed to produce zero emissions and offers high-efficiency cruise performance due to its tailless design with fixed wings and integrated distributed propulsion. The aircraft is compact, allowing it to use existing helipads, and features noise reduction technology to minimise environmental impact.
Capable of carrying up to six passengers, it operates optimally at a cruise altitude of 3,000 m and a speed of 280 km/h. The maximum physical range is over 250 km. The aircraft uses the proprietary Ducted Electric Vectored Thrust (DEVT) technology, integrating electric jet engines into the wing flaps for improved payload, aerodynamic efficiency, and manoeuvrability, while ensuring zero emissions.
Vertical Aerospace is a UK-based company, founded in 2016 by Stephen Fitzpatrick, that’s developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Their mission is to make air travel more sustainable and efficient with aircraft that are quieter, cheaper, and less polluting than traditional aircraft.
Vertical Aerospace’s VX4 is an electrically powered aircraft tailor-made for urban air transport. Drawing from the F35’s advanced VTOL avionics, its state-of-the-art flight systems allow for effortless and autonomous flying, easing the pressure on pilots. The VX4 stands out with its remarkable top speed of 200mph and a flight range surpassing 100 miles. It can comfortably seat four passengers along with a pilot, providing a range of services, from regular passenger transport to emergency medical airlifts and freight delivery.
In conclusion, the question, “Can a drone carry a person?” is a resounding yes, as we have seen in this article. The groundbreaking advancements in drone technology have given rise to a new breed of drones, known as eVTOLs, capable of carrying passengers. Companies like Ehang, Wisk Aero, Volocopter, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace have not only conceptualised but also successfully tested their passenger drones.
As the horizon of drone capabilities expands, the future of transportation is being reinvented, promising a paradigm shift in urban air mobility. Despite the hurdles and challenges, the prospects for passenger drones are compelling, stirring our imaginations and fostering the reality of a world where drones are an integral part of our transportation systems. The age of passenger drones has dawned, and it holds the promise of a more sustainable, efficient, and innovative mode of travel.