A Chinese drone maker has revealed a giant quadcopter big enough to fit a passenger.
EHang claims to be building the world’s first ‘Autonomous Aerial Vehicle’ for transporting people.
Unveiled at CES in Las Vegas and called the 184, the all-electric vehicle has four arms with a total of eight propellers at the end.
‘You know how it feels to sit in a Ferrari? This is 10 times better,’ George Yan, co-founder of Ehang said in an interview with DailyMail.com.
The company says the 184 is autonomous, so all the passenger has to do is enter in their destination in the smartphone app, sit back, and let the drone take over.
There’s no option to take control of the 184 remotely. The cockpit is empty, apart from a stand to place a smartphone or tablet and a cup holder.
‘I think in all of us there is that little kid in all of us that says I want to fly,’ said Yan. ‘I don’t want to get a pilot license after five or 10 hours of flying, I want to do it right away. We’re making that dream happen.’
‘Everything is calculated in the backend to pick the most optimal route for you, so there is no collision with the other drones flying,’ said Yan.
‘On the drone itself we have built pretty sophisticated back up services so if another system fails then another will take over.’
In the event of an emergency, passengers can also elect to halt flight and simply hover in the air.
The EHang 184, which was named for ‘one’ passenger, ‘eight’ propellers, and ‘four’ arms. When it’s not in use, it can be folded up so that it can be stored away more easily.
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.
It takes off and lands vertically, subsequently eliminating the need for runways.
‘Mass-adoption of the 184 has the potential to streamline congested traffic and dramatically reduce the kinds of accidents associated with any human-operated vehicle,’ the firm claims.
‘It’s been a lifetime goal of mine to make flight faster, easier and more convenient than ever. The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy efficient way,’ said EHang CEO Huazhi Hu.
‘I truly believe that EHang will make a global impact across dozens of industries beyond personal travel.
‘The 184 is evocative of a future we’ve always dreamed of and is primed to alter the very fundamentals of the way we get around.’
The 184 has been in development for 2 and a half years, and the company is aiming to release a commercial version later this year, depending on safety tests and future drone regulations.
As well as having to work in the confines of UAV laws, there is also the issue of trust. Would anyone ever trust a drone to fly them to a destination?
‘If you roll the timeline back to 100 years you will see that when we went from horse and carriage to vehicles people had the same concerns of whether you could trust it to take you from A to B,’ said Yan.
‘If you look out the cars out there and unmanned vehicles, you can understand that we can make these technology breakthrough.
You just have to start somewhere.’
EHang will also have a command center that employs people to make sure everything is safe — sort of like an air traffic controller at an airport.
The command center will monitor every 184 in the air 24/7 and the company plans integrate 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.
No official launch date has been set, but the company said commercialization will begin in a few months. EHang will first launch in the China and set up a command center there, where it will employ around 300 people, but the US isn’t far behind.
The company will begin working on getting a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration soon.