“Where’s my flying taxi?” you asked, consulting your 1980s guide to the 21st century. Well; Ehang is happy to oblige. And it comes with an AI pilot.
The Chinese drone manufacturer has created a quadcopter large enough and powerful enough to carry a human passenger, and is currently exhibiting the unit, the Ehang 184, at CES in Las Vegas. The user selects their destination and once the drone is instructed to take off, the onboard computer takes full control of the flight.
According to Ehang, the drone weighs 100kg (220lb), can be folded into a car parking space, and can fly for up to 23 minutes at 62mph (100kph), suggesting a maximum possible journey of just under 24 miles. The units are expected to be priced somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000. The name ‘184’ apparently refers to one passenger, eight propellers and four arms.
Based on local restrictions the 184 can’t be flown in Vegas, but the units have apparently run over 100 test flights in China and, according to the Financial Times, the company is already in discussions about launching pilot programmes in Guangzhou, Auckland and Los Angeles. There are a few significant practical issues to be addressed, however, as PaleoFuture notes – the units require FAA approval; local control centres need to be established to oversee flights and disaster prevention; and viable flight routes need to be established based on the devices specs. Wired sums it up best with their headline: Autonomous Drone That Seats One Is a Special Kind of Crazy.
In the past, Ehang has also built the similarly headline grabbing autonomous ‘selfie’ Ghost drone, and the VR, gesture controlled Ghost 2.0.
Previously in man-sized drone news, there was the Malloy Aeronautics’ Hoverbike stacking its blades in a design reminiscent of the Star Wars speeder bike.