More than 100 spectators, including Governor Roy Cooper and Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, gathered in Raleigh on Tuesday to witness North America’s first demonstration of an autonomous air taxi.
“Flight started in North Carolina over 100 years ago,” said Trogdon, whose agency hosted Tuesday’s demonstration. “So, it is appropriate the demonstration of this cutting-edge, disruptive technology takes place in North Carolina.”
The autonomous aerial vehicle flew in front of a crowd gathered at the State Highway Patrol Facility/Aviation Hangar in Raleigh. Due to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, Tuesday’s demonstration flight was unmanned, but the EH 216 can carry two adult, non-pilots.
The autonomous aerial vehicle is designed to function as a taxi service delivering people on pre-programmed routes. The aircraft has been flown in other parts of the world, but it has never been demonstrated for the public in North America.
In 2019, the state helped launch the first-ever commercial drone delivery service, shipping medical samples and supplies at Raleigh’s WakeMed Hospital. The N.C. Department of Transportation has won numerous awards in recent years for its groundbreaking use of drones to expedite the response and recovery efforts during Hurricane Florence.
The flight demonstration comes just before the 2020 North Carolina Transportation Summit, which brings together stakeholders to discuss transportation safety, funding and new and disruptive technologies. The summit is Wednesday and Thursday at the Raleigh Convention Center.