The world's first passenger drone capable of autonomously carrying a person in the air for 23 minutes has been given clearance for testing in Nevada. Chinese firm Ehang, which unveiled the electric Ehang 184 passenger drone at CES in Las Vegas in January, has partnered with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the Governor's Office of Economic Development (Goed) to put the drone through testing and regulatory approval. Tom Wilczek, Goed's aerospace and defence specialist said: "The State of Nevada, through NIAS, will help guide Ehang through the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulatory process with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight." The founder and chief executive of Ehang, Huazhi Hu, said the move would lay the foundation for the 184's commercialisation and kickstart the autonomous aerial transportation industry. Ehang hopes to begin testing later this year and will have to prove airworthiness to the FAA, with guidance from NIAS, before being able to operate in a wider capacity.
Uber is stepping up its bid to create one of the first urban flying taxi networks. The firm unveiled its Uber Air design models for the first time at the Elevate Summit in Los Angeles today, revealing a look at the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft that could be ferrying passengers above congested cities in just two years. A full-size model and miniature design prototype showed off to CBS News show how the electric flying taxis could fit up to four riders per vehicle, at first for piloted flights before ultimately becoming fully autonomous. Uber plans to launch the air-taxi service in 2020, with its self-flying craft to follow in the next five to 10 years. During the summit, Uber execs also revealed the firm has plans to take on nearly 10 times the number of daily flights than the FAA for a single city – and, it could cost riders less than $2 per mile.
For drone users, Hurricane Harvey is likely to be the event that propelled unmanned aircraft to become an integral part of government and corporate disaster-recovery efforts. In the first six days after the storm hit, the Federal Aviation Administration issued more than 40 separate authorizations for emergency drone activities above flood-ravaged Houston and surrounding areas. They ranged from inspecting roadways to checking railroad tracks to assessing the condition of water plants, oil refineries and power lines. That total climbed above 70 last Friday and topped 100 by Sunday, including some flights prohibited under routine circumstances, according to people familiar with the details. Industry officials said all of the operations--except for a handful flown by media outlets--were conducted in conjunction with, or on behalf of, local, state or federal agencies.
Tech giant Huawei's president has denied the firm has any links to Chinese spying operations. In a letter to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the firm's president Ryan Ding insisted the firm was not involved with such practices. But a 2012 US House Intelligence Committee report outlined Huawei's links to the Chinese state, has since been picked up by other western governments, including Australia, Germany and the UK. FBI Director Christopher Wray has also suggested that the company's smartphones could be used to "maliciously modify or steal information." But Mr Ding insisted that Huawei had never and would never assist any country in gathering intelligence on other countries.
Apple, Intel, Microsoft and Uber will soon start flying drones for a range of tasks including food and package delivery, digital mapping and conducting surveillance as part of 10 pilot programmes approved Wednesday by the US government. The drone-testing projects have been given waivers for regulations that currently ban their use in the US and will be used to help the Federal Aviation Authority draw up suitable laws to govern the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for myriad tasks. "The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon," said US transportation secretary Elaine Chao. Apple will be using drones to capture images of North Carolina with the state's Department of Transportation. Uber is working on air-taxi technology and will deliver food by drone in San Diego, California, because "we need flying burgers" said the company's chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.