A few years ago, Hailing an Uber was so damn cool, it made the whole idea of using a taxi sound dumb. Or at least tried to sound dumb. Now give it a few more years, and new innovative ideas from Chinese drone makers is going to make Uber sound so yesterday. Given, its not going to replace Uber or Taxi services neither is it going to outshine those planned high speed bullet trains. Nonetheless, this new drone showcased at the Consumers Electronic Show (CES) 2016 is worth writing a blog post for. The Ehang 184, as the Asian designers would benevolently called was a show stealer early this January in Las Vegas. For clarity; there were quite a number of drones at the show — and the Ehang wasn’t by all ramifications the Best drone at the show. While All drones showcased at the show had something in common, the Ehang 184 had something that wasn’t common — it could actually fly a human sized passenger!
Image credit: ehang
Finally, a drone that can carry something that isn’t a grocery, electronics or a missile. The Ehang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle is more than meets the eye, the 440 lb (200kg) weighing futuristic looking drone doesn’t just look but act the part. The Ehang 184 prototype can carry a single human passenger from one location to another autonomously. Charging of its 14.4-kWh battery pack takes four hours in trickle mode or two hours in fast-charge. A fully juiced up ” Ehang 184 prototype ” batteries can reportedly be enough keep one passenger airborne for up to 23 minutes at sea level. Subsequent commercial models should expecedly survive up 2 to 5 hours to make resonable impact. The whole drone weighs about 440 lb (200 kg), can carry up to 264 lb (120 kg) of load with a maximum speed of 62 mph (100 km/h) and can reach a maximum altitude of 11,480 ft (3,499 m).
The Ehang 184 moniker stands for the name of the drone company and “one passenger, eight propellers, four arms.”
Image credit: Ehang
Coupled with a 4G internet connection, full interior and exterior lighting, air conditioning and gull-wing doors, the ehang 184 offers a ‘trunk’ for storing things like a backpack and delivery items. The 184 is made of a carbon fiber/epoxy composite body, an aerial aluminum alloy frame, and eight motor putting out 142 hp/106 kW to eight propellers. The propellers are divided into four groups of two, each pair located on the top and bottom of one of four arms that can fold up when the drone is parked on the ground, allowing it to take up less space. The idea behind the Ehang 184 is quite simple — simply get in, power it up, select your destination using a pretty 12-inch touchscreen tablet display, then airborne you go. The drone then subsequently initiates it automated flight system which it uses for managing tasks such as communication with air traffic control and other aircraft, obstacle avoidance, and of course navigation. The automated flight system will always choose the fastest yet safest route to your destination. The drone also features a Failsafe system which will take over in the event of malfunctions. Passengers can also reportedly get the drone to stop and hover in place a place of choice if the need arises. Though we are still sceptical about claims of its commercial availability later this year, if it is indeed available — the drone is rumored to carry a potential price tag of between US$200,000 to US$300,000.