The Chinese manufacturer Ehang has presented a special version of its electrically driven passenger drone Ehang 216, which was specially designed for fire fighting in high-rise buildings. The company has also revealed more about production at Ehang.
According to the manufacturer, the special version of the drone, known as Ehang 216F, can fly up to 600 meters high and transport up to 150 litres of extinguishing foam and six “firebombs”. During operation, the drone is to use a thermal imaging camera to locate the source of the fire and then fire a “window breaker” from the position precisely maintained during hovering flight. Then the “firebombs”, which are presumably intended to distribute the powder known from powder fire extinguishers, are to extinguish the fire. Afterwards, the fire extinguishing foam is used to remove the oxygen from any existing embers and fire nests and to prevent a renewed outbreak of the fire.
The 216F is said to have demonstrated these capabilities at an event in Yunfu in July. According to Ehang, several drones can be used to extinguish a larger fire more quickly. In addition, the drones, which can fly more or less as the crow flies to the scene of the fire, should considerably shorten the reaction time of the fire department. Even if the drones are unable to extinguish the fire completely, the firefighters would receive important information before they arrive, Ehang said.
The problem with fires in high-rise buildings is often access to the source of the fire when the lifts cannot be used in an emergency. Also often problematic with conventional fire fighting methods is that the water supply for the fire-fighting teams must be ensured after they have often reached the right floor by stairs. The demonstration under set conditions portrayed here is of course not entirely indicative of the effectivity of the fire fighting drone that will only really show its usability in practical applications.
Huazhi Hu, founder and CEO of the company, described the potential of the AAV (Autonomous Air Vehicle) technology platform as “limitless”. “The high-rise fire use case highlights the practical application of our passenger-grade AAV platform to different smart city management needs,” Hu said. “We will explore and develop more aerial solutions and use cases to empower smart cities.”
Ehang also announced that a new production facility will be built in Yunfu. The city in Guangdong province will then be able to produce up to 600 units per year. Ehang estimates the investment, which is supported by the local government, at 42 million yuan, or 5.1 million euros. In addition to the plant, a research and development centre and a training centre are also to be built.
The Ehang 216 is a two-seater with 16 electric motors and propellers, an empty weight of 360 kilograms and a payload of 260 kilograms. The range is expected to be 35 kilometres and the top speed 130 km/h. In Norway, the Chinese manufacturer already received the operating license from the civil aviation authority this year. The passenger drone is to be used for testing purposes in delivery services and for the inspection of wind turbines, among other things. Back in 2018 Ehang presented the first live test flight with its drone carrying people with the concept vehicle called the Ehang 184.
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