CES 2016: Chinese company reveals autonomous passenger drone
Large Ehang 184 drone has no controls, but there is a seat for a passenger
In what is claimed to be a world first, Chinese firm Ehang has revealed a large autonomous drone with space for a passenger.
The Ehang 184, revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, resembles a small helicopter except for four small propellers mounted on each corner of the craft, similar to smaller and more conventional drones.
The electric vehicle charges in two hours and will fly, with a top speed of 60mph, for 23 minutes between 980-1640ft above the ground. There is a seat inside for a passenger and bags and it is small enough to take-off and land in a parking space.
It is completely autonomous - the passenger simply chooses a destination on their tablet using Google Maps and the drone flies there. As there are no controls in the cockpit, though, human pilots in "command centres" can take control should anything go wrong, says Wired.
No launch date for the Ehang has been announced, partly because of the legal grey area it occupies. "US authorities are starting to lay out guidelines for drone use, and a human-passenger drone seems certain to face strict scrutiny", says The Guardian, though they also report that the vehicle has been flown hundreds of times in China, including manned flights.
The Daily Mail says the company is aiming to release the vehicle later this year, depending on the legislation surrounding the drone and safety requirements. Techinsider reports that Ehang founder Shang Wen Hsiao is confident their invention is safe and can land safely in the event of an issue.
He also told the Financial Times that the vehicle would be adopted by cities seeking to solve congestion problems, as well as plans for an on-demand Uber-like service in the skies.