There is no doubt that the human-carrying drone was long overdue in the commercial market. And while we have seen the likes of Flike, this year’s CES has brought us a more comprehensive version of the flying vehicle – courtesy of Ehang Inc., a Chinese drone-making company based in Guangzhou. Christened as the Ehang 184 AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle), the electric craft is touted as the world’s first drone capable of carrying a human passenger. Interestingly, it looks similar to the flying car pods we are used to seeing in conceptual models, but is accompanied by four doubled propellers that are ubiquitous in drones.
Given its electric-powered nature and a 14.4-kWh battery pack, the Ehang 184 human-carrying drone boasts some pretty nifty yet low-carbon credentials. These translate to a substantial 264 lb (120 kg) weight carrying capacity and a fast recharging mode in just two hours that endows 23 minutes of flight-time at sea level. Additionally, the drone in itself weighs around 440 lbs, has a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h), and can zoom up to an altitude of 11,480 ft (3,499 m).
Now beyond just numbers, the really fascinating feature of the Ehang 184 AAV pertains to its automated navigation scope. To that end, all the user needs to do is just get inside the single-seater craft, activate the machine, and then select their specific destination on a 12-inch touchscreen tablet (Microsoft Surface being the model used at CES). The flying machine does the rest – by taking over the entire navigational protocol. This automated ambit ranges from choosing the safest yet fastest route to even regulating the communication with air traffic control and other potential aircraft in proximity.
The safety factor is further notched up a level by an integrated remote control center that would act as a fail-safe system in case of malfunctions and flight problems. Moreover, the four-doubled propellers are powered by a substantial 142 hp/106 kW delivered by eight motors. So even if three of the four arms (that is total of three-doubled or six propellers) fail, the last arm can carry forth the human-carrying drone for a rough landing.
All of these flight-oriented aspects are complemented by some user-level features, including a bantam trunk for storage, interior lighting for reading, air conditioning and 4G internet connectivity. And in case you are worried about parking, the extended arms can fold themselves to make room in even tiny spaces.
Lastly, as for the commercial side of affairs, the company is expecting to introduce their purchasable line of Ehang 184 AAVs from the last quarter of this year. Each of these models would probably carry a price tag that ranges between $200,000 to $300,000. But of course, on the other side of the coin, we are still not sure FAA would acknowledge the design of a full fledged human-carrying drone.