Chinese drone calamity still manages to have major payoff

3 May 2018

Still from ‘EHang Egret’s 1374 drones dancing over the City Wall of Xi’an, achieving the Guinness World Records’. Image: EHANG/YouTube

Chinese drone manufacturer EHang attempted to pull off a display like no other. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a problem.

Enormous drone displays are becoming increasingly common as major tech companies aim to show off their capabilities, most recently seen with the Guangzhou-based company EHang.

According to the South China Morning Post, the company launched 1,374 drones into the air, spread out over a distance of 1km, hovering over the ancient city of Xi’an.

Future Human

Given $1.6m by the Chinese government to create the display to mark Labour Day, EHang had planned to use lights on the drone to write messages such as ‘1,734’, ‘Running Xi’an’ and ‘New Era’.

However, due to an error in coordination, the drones failed to spell out exactly what they were supposed to, leading to much confusion as to what happened.

So far, EHang has not responded to any questions as to what caused the error, but the company can still celebrate the fact that, with all of the drones at least taking to the air, it is now the world record-holder for the most amount of drones flown simultaneously.

Beats Intel record

The previous record holder was Intel who, last February, flew a total of 1,218 drones at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

However, the display was actually pre-recorded and shown on a large screen at the event due to “possible freezing weather and strong winds”.

If the name EHang sounds familiar, it might be because it proposed a flying taxi service at the beginning of last year with claims that a service would be up and running by July 2017.

Since then, its plans have changed somewhat, promising in February of this year that the taxis would come to market within a year.

When operational, the craft would be capable of speeds of up to 130kph and, during tests, climbed to a height of 300m.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic