EHang announced on July 31st the launch of the world’s first large-payload aerial firefighting system.  EHang converted its popular 216 model autonomous air vehicle (AAV) to a firefighting version, named the EHang 216F, which is specially designed for high-rise firefighting.  The decision to tailor the design to high-rise firefighting applications is indicative of the common use cases within China, a country with tens of thousands of high rise buildings.

EHang revealed the 216F at a launch in Yunfu, China, and demonstrated its capability to extinguish a high-rise fire.  Since the EHang 216F has a maximum flight altitude of 600 meters, and can carry up to 150 liters of firefighting foams and 6 fire extinguisher bombs in a single trip, the 216F is a viable urban firefighting vehicle that is ready for application today.  Visible light zoom cameras provide fire location functionality, after which the aircraft hovers in position and uses a laser aiming device to fire (in succession) a window breaker, the fire extinguishing “bombs” and then a full-range spray of firefighting foam.  Ehang also noted that multiple 216F’s could be deployed simultaneously for a more comprehensive response.

EHang Fire Station

A fire station with traditional ground based firefighting systems and EHang 216F’s. Image // EHang

EHang’s Founder, Chairman and CEO, Huazhi Hu said, “We are pleased to introduce the EHang 216F AAV aerial firefighting solution, which solves difficult challenges in high-rise firefighting.  The high-rise fire use case highlights the practical application of our passenger-grade AAV platform to different smart city management needs.  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.”

Accelerating urbanization and building density are increasing fire hazards and creating more difficulties in firefighting.  According to a survey by China Fire Magazine, 233,000 fires were reported nationwide in 2019, among which 6,974 cases happened in high-rise buildings with a year-on-year growth of 10.6%.

EHang intends for 216F’s to be deployed in urban fire stations to assist in firefighting within a 5km radius of those stations.  Due to the autonomous nature of the 216F, a fleet of EHang 216Fs will be able to dispatch remotely for first response, in many cases prior to the arrival of firefighters. This reduction in response time is crucial to saving lives.

While not commonly broadcast, high-rise fires represent a growing problem with acceleration of urbanization, and the current existing firefighting technologies are not readily tuned for application in fires above 50m – the height of fire rescue ladders and the reach of fire nozzles are 50 meters at maximum, and ladders are not easily moved from one face of the building to another.  Traffic also adds to the response time of ground-based firefighting services.

Why it’s important: EHang is the first company within the aerial mobility industry to devote significant resources to creating a firefighting solution based off of their existing eVTOL technology, a novel use case that emphasizes the benefits of a rapidly deployed, autonomous, and reconfigurable platform. Especially in urban areas, the response time of the 216F would likely surpass that of any fire department for a high-rise fire, and multiple 216F’s deployed concurrently would enable effective firefighting. While the classic use case of on-demand transportation is most commonly imagined within the aerial mobility realm, anterior use cases such as firefighting may grow to consume more of the lions’ share of investment within the industry, at least early on, due to the immediate benefit and value proposition of such solutions.

Source // EHang Press Release

Posted by Naish Gaubatz

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