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EHang adapts its autonomous aerial vehicles for high-rise firefighting

Continuing a series of major announcements over the past week, the Chinese eVTOL developer EHang has revealed a new firefighting version of its EHang 216 autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) called the EHang 216F.

Designed specifically for high-rise firefighting, the 216F can carry up to 150 liters (40 U.S. gallons) of firefighting foam and six fire extinguisher bombs in a single trip. As seen in an EHang video, the 216F uses a visible light zoom camera to quickly identify the location of fire, then hovers in position and uses a laser aiming device to successively deliver a window breaker, the fire extinguisher bombs, and a spray of firefighting foam.

EHang envisions that its 216Fs will be deployed in urban fire stations to assist in firefighting within a five-kilometer (three-mile) radius. The company suggested that multiple 216Fs could be rapidly deployed to a single fire using the company’s autopilot and remote centralized management technologies.

EHang unveiled the 216F at a launch ceremony in Yunfu, China. Weiqiang Chen, the head of a fire station in Yunfu, stated: “EHang’s intelligent aerial firefighting solution can effectively solve difficult problems in fighting high-rise fires. This complements existing firefighting systems and will improve society’s ability to respond to emergencies.”

High-rise fires pose special challenges because they often exceed the reach of fire ladders and hoses, and are located in dense urban environments where traffic can delay the response times of ground vehicles, EHang said. The company cited statistics from China Fire Magazine indicating that there were nearly 7,000 fires in high-rise buildings in China in 2019, representing a year-on-year growth of 10.6%.

EHang firefighting eVTOL
The EHang 216F autonomous aerial vehicle could be used to fight high-rise fires above the reach of ground hoses. EHang Photo

EHang’s is not the first aerial firefighting solution developed specifically for high-rise fires. Simplex has developed a “SkyCannon” system for installation on Airbus EC225/H225 and Avicopter AC313 helicopters with a capacity of 2,270 liters (600 gallons), much greater than that of the 216F. However, these large helicopter models typically cost tens of millions of dollars to acquire and maintain, compared to several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the EHang 216.

EHang said the 216F demonstrates the company’s ability to commercialize its technology platform to various practical applications. “The high-rise fire use case highlights the practical application of our passenger-grade AAV platform to different smart city management needs,” EHang founder and CEO Huazhi Hu stated in a press release. “The potential of our intelligent AAV technology platform is boundless. We will explore and develop more aerial solutions and use cases to empower smart cities.”

The launch of the 216F follows EHang’s announcements that it has obtained a special flight operations certificate from Transport Canada for flight testing of the EHang 216 in Quebec, and that it plans to build a new production facility in Yunfu capable of manufacturing up to 600 aircraft per year.

EHang stock closed on the Nasdaq on July 31 at $8.32 — slightly up from its July 28 low of $7.70, but well below its initial public offering price of $12.50.

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