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Pilot-less air taxi takes off in Vienna

Kirsti Knolle/Vienna
Filed on April 4, 2019
Pilot-less air taxi takes off in Vienna

(AFP)

As carmakers push ahead with self-driving vehicles, an Austrian aerospace company and its Chinese partner showed off their pilot-less "flying taxi" for the first time in Europe on Thursday.

The drone's 16 propellers hummed loudly as it rose above the pitch at Vienna's Generali Arena, home to soccer club Austria Wien. The slim plane, which weighs 340kg, circled in the air briefly and came down within a few minutes.

The EHang 216, which can seat two passengers, has been tested comprehensively and is essentially ready for mass production, said Derrick Xiong, co-founder of Chinese drone maker EHang.

Joining the race for new autonomous aircraft services that do not require runways, EHang entered a strategic partnership with Austria's FACC, owned by Chinese aerospace group AVIC , last year, aiming to offer short-haul services for passengers, industrial equipment and urgent medical deliveries.

The drone can fly at up to 150km per hour (90mph) for almost half an hour, FACC chief executive Officer Robert Machtlinger said. "It can travel between 50 and 70 kilometres depending on the payload."

The passenger cabin is small, with leg room that taller passengers might find less-than adequate, an Austrian photographer who took part in a demonstration flight told Reuters.

FACC says it has already received several thousand orders for the ?300,000 ($336,000) drone, with the highest demand in China.

- Reuters


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