From today's N&O: RALEIGH More than 100 people, including Gov. Roy Cooper, state lawmakers and leaders of the N.C. Department of Transportation, gathered at the State Highway Patrol’s test track south of Raleigh Tuesday afternoon to witness a bit of aviation history. “Autonomous connected vehicles of any type are where transportation is headed,” Trogdon said in an interview. “We want to bring these kinds of opportunities to make sure that we’re economically competitive.” Sixteen sets of electric motors and propellers lift the EH 216 into the air and move it forward along pre-programmed routes at up to 80 mph, said Derrick Xiong, EHang’s cofounder. The craft weighs about 600 pounds and can carry another 500 to 600 pounds of cargo or people, Xiong said. EHang has built dozens of them and has made demo flights like this one in Amsterdam, Vienna, Qatar, Dubai and in several cities in China, Xiong said. He said the craft is in the “very early stage of commercialization” in China, mostly limited to sightseeing flights. The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t permit autonomous aircraft to carry people, so no one flew in the EH 216 on Tuesday. Under FAA guidelines, NCDOT had to treat the demonstration flight as it would an airshow, keeping spectators back 500 feet and having a fire truck and ambulance on hand. After a five-minute flight over the test track, the EH 216 landed, and the crowd was allowed to walk down for a closer look. People posed with the craft for pictures, careful not to touch it.