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EHang demos centralized drone management in flood response exercise

The Chinese autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) developer EHang recently deployed a number of its small drones for an emergency response exercise in Shaoguan, China, demonstrating the type of command-and-control model that the company also intends to apply to future urban air mobility operations.

According to a press release, the exercise in Shaoguan assumed that the banks of the Wujiang River collapsed, threatening the safety of the township and its schools. To combat the ensuing flood, the local authority carried out a number of measures including deploying an emergency response team, transferring people at risk, rescuing drowning people, and delivering relief supplies.

EHang supported the exercise by dispatching 10 drones to four emergency sites. Controlled from a remote command-and-control center, the vehicles livestreamed the process of emergency repair, flood discharge, and staff transfer via built-in high definition cameras. They were also used to drop life jackets and other relief materials to victims of the flood.

EHang drone command-and-control center
EHang’s command-and-control center in Shaoguan is one of two such centers the company has established in China. EHang Photo

EHang said the exercise demonstrated the technical advantages of preset routes and centralized management of its AAVs, which can be equipped with different task modules and connected with the command-and-control center in real time through 4G or 5G networks. In a white paper published earlier this year, EHang proposed a similar command-and-control structure for urban air mobility operations using its larger, passenger-carrying AAVs.

“In the future, city management will be more intelligent, integrated, and data-oriented,” EHang founder and CEO Hu Huazhi stated in the company’s latest press release. “I am thrilled that EHang joined hands with the Shaoguan city government to lead this trend of smart city management. We will continue to contribute our technological advantages toward building Shaoguan as a model of a smart city utilizing comprehensive AAV applications.”

EHang formed a strategic partnership with local government in October 2017 to develop its AAV command-and-control center in Shaoguan, which launched for trial operations in 2018. Since May 2019, the facility has responded to the needs of different authorities including the Shaoguan Emergency Management Bureau, Water Affairs Bureau, Forestry Bureau, Environmental Protection Bureau, and Traffic Police Detachment for regular air inspections of forestry and water resources and construction sites.

EHang has also used its drones and command-and-control center to conduct broadcasts and non-contact inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said.

The command-and-control center in Shaoguan is one of two such centers the company has established in China to date (the other is in Lianyungang). EHang has also entered into an agreement to establish a command-and-control center in the international airport of Baku, Azerbaijan.

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