We've seen tiny drones the size of your palm. Now it's time to introduce a super-sized drone that is able to transport a human being. Ehang has announced the first autonomous aerial vehicle, the "184" Personal Flying Vehicle (PFV), a quadcopter the size of a smart car. The 184 can deliver one human (up to 260 pounds) anywhere...within a 23 minute flight.
Flying in Style
The space might look tight, but the 184 comes with some luxuries. Air conditioning will keep you cool as you surf the internet on the available 4G data connection. Prefer to read? There's a dual color reading light perfect for any condition.
So what makes it different than a tiny, personal helicopter?
Well, it functions like a drone, which means the rider has minimal controls. In fact, the drone's autonomous flight controls do just about everything. The only options the rider has are take off, pause flight, and land.
“Passengers don’t need to learn how to fly it, they don’t need get to a pilot’s license,” says EHang cofounder Derrick Xiong. The 184 also has to be classified differently than a regular aircraft. Ehang believes that aviation authorities will struggle to classify exactly what it is, though.
Some of the 184's stats:
- Top speed: About 100 km/h (62 mph)
- Max flight height: More than 3,300 meters (11,000 feet)
- Weight: 200 kg (440 lb)
No one wants a 200 kg drone falling on them from the sky. For this reason, Ehang has ensured that there are full fail-safe systems in place.
The 184 won't use computer vision to sense objects and avoid them. Instead, the 184 will automatically land if it senses that any component on the machine is damaged. In addition, Ehang will have a command center that functions sort of like an air traffic controller at an airport. The staff will make sure 184s don't take off in bad weather, or other extreme conditions. The first command center will be set up in China, where it will employ around 300 people, but the US isn’t far behind.
When Can I Buy One?
If you want to brave the skies in your own personal drone, get out your wallet.
Both the price and release date of the 184 should be sometime in 2016, but the vehicle won’t be cheap. It could range anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000. There’s also the service fee to pay for the command center on top of that.
That said, a working prototype of the 184 is currently on display at the Las Vegas, Nevada Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
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