A Chinese company has revealed the world’s first passenger drone, a magnificent looking one-person courier that will set you back $300,000, if it is allowed to fly.
The EHang 184 was shown off in Las Vegas yesterday (6 January) and really set tongues wagging. Essentially a pumped-up quadcopter, the 184 seats one person, with room for a backpack.
It has a reading light, air conditioning and all you, the passenger, has to do is tap on the Microsoft Surface tablet mounted inside, with ‘take off’ and ‘land’ your only options. Were commands to fail, a central control system would land the drone safely.
Quite why something like this exists is up for debate but, from watching the company’s launch video, it’s clear that personal tragedies from flight crashes inspired this bizarre, futuristic and safety-driven concept.
The EHang 184 takes two hours to charge, which seems remarkable as my Samsung Galaxy Tab A takes more than that. For that amount of juice, the manufacturers claim you can get 23 minutes in the air, with the EHang 184 supporting up to 220 pounds of weight.
It is designed to fly about 1,000 to 1,650 feet off the ground with a maximum altitude of 11,500 feet and top speed of 63mph.
According to The Guardian, EHang co-founder and CFO Shang Hsiao said the company hopes to sell the device for between $200,000-$300,000, starting sometime this year.
However the regulatory environment for drones of all sizes is in flux, and varies from state to state. “The whole world never had something like this before,” he said.
For safety quibbles, EHang’s chief marketing officer Derrick Xiong maintains that even were three of the propellor legs to fail, the final one could still land you safely, and pretty roughly. And when you reel in those four propellor legs it can fit in a regular carpark space.
How weird would it be to see the rooftop of every multi-storey carpark filled up with these critters?