It’s not a plane, and it’s certainly not a bird. It’s the first drone that can accommodate a human passenger. Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang Inc has unveiled the first autonomous aerial vehicle that can comfortably carry a human being inside. The Ehang 184 drone resembles a smart car with wings, or a mini helicopter, as it’s big enough to carry up to 220 lb – which weighs out to be one person and a backpack. When fully charged, the machine can fly for two hours straight and is equipped with air conditioning and a reading light.
The pilot-less aircraft can reach speeds up to 63mph and can fly at a maximum altitude of 11,500 feet. It’s designed to fly between 1,000 to 1,650 feet from the ground. However, don’t expect the Ehang 184 to be the future in public transportation. The company’s CEO says while it’s been tested in over 100 flights, the drone would complicate policy and regulations for the machine. It could possibly be applied to other areas, like rescue missions in remote areas that are hard to access. "EHang 184 will be a safe alternative for short trips, automated flight eliminates the most dangerous part of standard modes of transportation: human error”.
Beyond automating flight, the brand touts multiple backup systems, a “Fail-Safe System” that automatically lands the vehicle in event of damage or malfunction, multiple sets of sensors that provide the drone a constant stream of real-time data, and an emergency button that allows passengers to halt flight and “simply hover in the air” with a single click.
The EHang 184 takes off and lands vertically, subsequently eliminating the need for runways. It also folds for storage, an important trait if it is to be used in cramped urban settings.
According to the company, the drone is equipped with a multi-rotor system with eight propellers, giving better odds to safely land even if multiple systems fail. But in the event of an emergency, Ehang plan on monitoring all flights with a remote control center that is capable of intervening if the need arises. Assuming clearance by the multiple regulatory agencies to actually sell the drone, owning one won’t come cheap with a price tab somewhere between $200,000USD to $300,000USD. A small price to pay to avoid traffic and fly to work.