The Chinese drone maker EHang has unveiled the world’s first commercially available passenger drone for transporting people at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
It is named the 184, it looks very similar to many quadcopter drones that we have all become accustomed to it’s just a bit bigger and oh yes it has a passenger cockpit. The all-electric powered vehicle has eight propellers two at each end of four arms one above and one below.
- Machine Height: 1447mm
- Machine Length (Including Propeller): 3866mm
- Machine Width (Including Propeller): 3899mm
- Cabin Height: 2074mm
- Cabin Width: 1018mm
- Propeller Length: 1500mm
- Horizontal Shaft Distance: 2422mm
- Vertical Shaft Distance: 2388mm
- Bottom Clearance: 210mm
- Arm Angle: 7.5°
- Air Conditioner’s Input Draught: 1 pc
- Air Conditioner’s Output Draught: 1 pc
- Arm Light: 4pcs (The Red Light is Front, Green Light is Back)
- Signal Light: Navigation Flash
- Downward Camera: 1 pc
- Floodlight: Front floodlight, decline floodlight
- Charging Port: 1pc
- Colour: Custom’made
Ehang states the 184 is totally autonomous, so all the passenger has to do is enter in their destination in the smartphone app.
“Passengers don’t need to learn how to fly it, they don’t need get to a pilot’s license,” EHang cofounder Derrick Xiong said in an interview. ”They just need to press a button and then it vertically takes off, flies from point A to point B, and lands.”
Pilotless planes have been developed and tested previously, however Ehang says their vehicle is the world’s first commercially available self-flying aircraft.
EHang said the vehicle is primarily designed for traveling short to medium distances – around 10 miles – and will fly at around 60 miles per hour.
For safety, Xiong said the 184 will not use computer vision to sense objects and avoid them. Instead, Ehang will rely on a fail-safe system that will automatically land the vehicle if it senses that any component on the machine is damaged. EHang will also have a command center that employs people to make sure everything is safe, similar to an air traffic controller at an airport. The command center will monitor every 184 in the air at all times and the company plans to integrate this with existing air traffic controller operations. The command center would, for example, make sure that a 184 doesn’t take off in extreme weather conditions.
There is currently no official launch date however the company said commercial production will commence in a few months. They will launch in China first and set up a command center there, employing approximately 300 staff. The company will begin working with the Federal Aviation Administration soon on attaining approval and certification. Bearing in mind how the FAA has struggled to regulate small drones, I would imagine that the agency will have some major issues and dilemmas with the Ehang 184.
Considering that the hoverboard is illegal to use on many streets in many towns and countries, it’s highly unlikely that Ehang 184 owners will ever be able to fly in their drones without some kind of licence or permit.
Initially, the 184 won’t be cheap. Ehang is still working out the price, it could range anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000 and then there is also the service fee to pay for the command center on top of that.