Update 09 June 2016
When we last spoke about the Ehang184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, a quadcopter capable of carrying a human being, the prospect of it arriving in the U.S. anytime soon seemed like pie — er, drone — in the sky.
How quickly things change, especially when Vegas is involved.
The Chinese firm behind Ehang has now received clearance to begin testing the 184 at the FAA’s unmanned aircraft systems test site in Nevada later this year. If all goes to plan, the unmanned vehicle could be carrying you back from the Strip by the time the Raiders get to Vegas.
“EHang’s selection of Nevada to test its people-carrying drone marks a thrilling addition to the innovative companies testing throughout our state to advance the commercial drone industry," says Tom Wilczek of the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development. "I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system.”
Superman does it. Aladdin, too, with a little help. Icarus did it briefly. R Kelly still thinks he can.
Humans have been dreaming of autonomous flight since, well, the first time a proprioceptive and four-limbed human saw a bird pass overhead. And now a Chinese design firm has unveiled a new machine that brings us closer to that dream than we’ve ever been.
The Ehang184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle is an eight-motor electric quadcopter that can fly one passenger for 23 minutes at an average cruising speed of 62 MPH. With a max altitude of about 1,640 feet, the 440-pound man drone can be your personal Uber in the sky ... as long as you weigh 220 pounds or less.
Ehang184 passengers simply input their destination via app and then sit back and relax while the thunderproof craft takes off, flies and lands by itself — no piloting required. If for some reason there is an in-flight problem, the 100% green aircraft’s online system will alert a pilot standing by at a command center who can remotely fly the drone to ground safely.
The drones have completed successful flights in China, and while they haven’t been approved stateside, Ehang’s CEO told the Verge the 184 will fundamentally alter the way we get around.
If they come to the U.S., owning an 184 won’t be cheap, but you’ll save a ton on surge pricing.