There were many interesting inventions at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show. One thing caught my attention in particular: Ehang 184, a passenger-ready drone.
The main difference between the Ehang 184 and a helicopter is that the vehicle is autonomous. Thus, the passenger doesn’t need a pilot’s license.
The uses of a passenger-ready drone
The Ehang 184 is designed with the everyman in mind, not pilots. It’s obvious when you look at the user interface. You use a map to choose your destination, and simple buttons and sliders to power lights or change the temperature.
[Image Credits: Ehang]
Introducing a passenger-ready drone to the market could mean a significant shift in the way people travel. The streets could become less congested and, since the drone flies itself, human error isn’t a concern.
The Ehang 184 is made to fit just one person but, if it does well, we can expect to see bigger models in the future.
The Ehang’s specs
It may be a drone by definition, but the Ehang 184 looks more like a prototype helicopter than a regular drone.
It’s approximately 1.5 meters tall, 3.8-meter wide, and 3.9-meter long. The Ehang 184 also weighs 200 kilograms and can carry an additional hundred.
The vehicle flies with the help of four pairs of rotors. It also has air conditioning, two floodlights, cabin lights, and 4G network capabilities.
[Image Credits: Ehang]
The passenger-ready drone is also eco-friendly, using only electricity. As commendable as that is, this also presents some drawbacks.
The vehicle can only fly for a maximum of 23 minutes before it needs a two to four-hour break to charge. Since it has an average speed of 100 km/h, the Ehang 184 can travel for about 38 kilometers before it needs to charge. Its maximum height is 500 meters.
The safety measures
The idea behind Ehang 184 is convenience and security. Also, it’s designed with full redundancy. This ensures the aircraft can still function despite the malfunction of a component.
In case a set of propellers stops working properly, the vehicle is still capable of reaching its destination. The vehicles are encrypted to ensure safety from possible hackers.
The passenger-ready drone also has a fail-safe. If the software considers that the passenger is in danger, it will land in the nearest possible area to ensure safety.
The commercial release
The company behind the drone intends to start selling it in just a few months. This plan is highly ambitious since current laws don’t allow the use of such devices. We might soon see a commercial release in China, the company’s country of origin. The rest of the world is an entirely different story.
I expect it to take years before it will be publicly available anywhere else.
The current drone laws in the UK prohibit the use of drones that weigh more than 20 kilograms outside of certified “danger areas”. Drones must also stay 50 meters away from people, and 150 meters away from congested areas.
The Ehang 184 is ten times over the weight limit without a passenger inside. It is also too big to occupy an average car parking space. The way it will communicate with other aircraft is also unclear at the moment.
Considering all this, we can expect massive regulations.
Will the drone be worth the money?
The company estimated the price of the aircraft to be somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000. That is an enormous amount of money for a drone, but I don’t think it can be considered a simple drone.
Looking at the Ehang 184 as a self-piloting personal helicopter puts the price in a whole different light.
The biggest problem the vehicle has, in my opinion, is the battery life. I’m sure newer models will be able to fly for a longer time, but, at the moment, I wouldn’t consider the Ehang 184 too practical. Despite this, it will surely offer a unique experience.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Would you buy a passenger-ready drone? I’d love to hear what you have to say, so share your opinions in the comment section below.
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