As anyone who has contemplated getting a helicopter rating knows, FAA’s requirements are somewhere between ridiculous and sublime.
With no rating at all it will take you close to 45 hours of dual instruction and 20 hours of solo practice flights before you are ready for your checkride. Even if you already hold a pilot certificate—private, commercial, or even an airline transport pilot rating—you should plan on spending 40 hours of dual and 15 hours of solo to get your helicopter add-on . . . a quick five-figure dent in your wallet no matter how you look at it.
Ahhh. . . But maybe there’s another possibility.
Chinese drone maker EHang is conducting ground and flight testing of a large single-passenger multi-rotor vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) autonomous air taxi whose attendance at last year’s Las Vegas, NV, Consumer Electronics Show blew the socks off attendees.
The EHang 184, with eight sets of motors and props in upper and lower pairs at the ends of arms extending from its passenger cabin is in the third phase of its development of the flight control system offering stable and effective control of the large multi-rotor aircraft.
Along with the power, storage, and flight control systems, EHang is working on a ground command center designed to dispatch aircraft and monitor their operational flight activities in real time.
EHang says it has conducted testing in the hover, in stable flight at fixed height and location, and has “achieved some success in point-to-point flight tests.” The next step is autonomous test flights carrying a load and using a fourth generation wireless mobile telecommunications technology network for command and control.
Anyone who has ever flown a single rotor chopper knows the feeling of having that proverbial “tiger by the tail” from the moment you engage the rotor, until the blades have come to a full stop, but think about what has happened in the world of multi-rotor drones in the past several years. Five years ago if you trimmed the drone properly before flight, you had a better than even chance of launching and recovering it without destroying it or the neighborhood. With today’s third generation drone you can preprogram an entire flight in which the principal opportunity for disaster lies in your desire to participate in the fun.
So why not opt for 10-minute autonomous multi-rotor point-to-point Uber rides to replace the hour-long mindless slogs that serve as bookends to your current daily grind?