This Drone Carries A Human: The Flying Taxi Of Our Dreams?

Is This the Autonomous Flying Taxi of Our Dreams?

Is the world of autonomous single-passenger drones just over the horizon? Will you be commuting like George Jetson next year? Chinese company, EHang, made a splashy announcement at CES <promising just that. Take a look, but consider us sceptical.

The company says its 200kg pilotless vehicle, called the 184, will hit the market at some unspecified date in the near future. The estimated cost? Anywhere from $US300,000 ($425,080) to $US400,000 ($566,773).

"After we launch it at CES, the goal is to do the commercialization within three to four months," EHang CFO Shang Hsaio told Wired. The definition of "commercialization" is never made clear, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

All EHang needs now is FAA approval, a vast network of air-traffic control monitors, and a way to figure out how to make the thing land safely after just 23 minutes in the air. Oh, we didn't mention that? Yeah, its battery lasts a rather humble 23 minutes, or about 16km. For a bit of perspective, that wouldn't even get you halfway from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Also, the drone doesn't have any manual controls, so if the thing fails mid-flight it seems you're out of luck. (To extend our LA example, you'd be crashing somewhere around Culver City.)

EHang is better known for making hobby drones like the Ghost Drone, but that doesn't make us any more optimistic that this thing will ever make it to market in the United States.

The latest trend in flying car vaporware seems to be producing tiny drones as "prototype" vehicles and claiming that your full-sized product is just waiting for FAA approval. Flying car companies like Moller International and Terrafugia have done just that. But just because you can make a small drone doesn't mean you can make something that A) flies safely enough to produce for the commercial market and B) will be granted FAA certification.

We have a century of similar promises about flying cars under our belt. So while we're rooting for EHang, even if it's ultimately just a toy for the rich, we're still not convinced that this thing will hit the US market anytime soon. In fact, I'd like to re-up my wager that if this thing hits the market in the next year or two, I'll literally eat the sun.

Is This the Autonomous Flying Taxi of Our Dreams?


Photos via Associated Press



    something tells me this wont end well for some people.

      I can see it autonomously taking off straight into a garage door.

    I prefer Futurama's suicide booth

    But seriously, one day won't drones be better than cars? No need for roads. No need for human drivers. There are a lot of advantages.

    20 minutes fly time and $300,000 is pretty insanely good considering the first planes and helicopters. I'm sure some rich people would buy it just for fun.

      But seriously, if it has an engine or electronic failure you are going to drop like a brick and die.
      In a helicopter you can autorotate and land on an engine failure.

      15 years in automation and control and 5 years as a commercial helicopter pilot and nothing could make me get into that thing or anything like it.

    I can see Uber being all over this! No drivers to worry about. Little protection around those props though might be a good thing, walking into them would'nt be fun

      They could've at least, built some kind of protection around the blades, like they have in the air boats.... So that if someone gets pissed off and decides to storm off the cockpit, they won't get chopped up...

    Ya legs off! , no it isn't.... it just a flesh wound!

    I hope the FAA does not certify this crap.... Come on, its Chinese made, there's no safety built in their products, there's no quality control, everything they do is about money....

    You have to start somewhere... this is a great toy, and as battery power to weight efficiencies improve, guess who will be ahead of the pack with their technology?

    Hopefully they can sell a few to rich hobbyists, then they will have the funding to push it further.

    Uh... it literally is not a drone if there's a person in it...

      It is if you are considered cargo and not piloting it.

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