PHOTO CAPTION: Conceptual illustration of Ehand 184 human-carrying VTOL quadcopter landing.

Ehang Shows Human-Carrying Drone

It's only a concept at the moment, but this Chinese company is hoping to bring the real thing to market: an autonomous, passenger-carrying octacopter drone.

Published: 08-Jan-2016

It wasn't all that long ago back in 2011 that some crazy kids in Germany were experimenting with bunch of electric motors mounted on a yoga ball, creating the first human-carrying multi-rotor aircraft. After a successful test hope in which the pilot wasn't sliced into sushi, they would go on to create Volocopter successfully flying, without the pilot for the time being, a more practical version of their invention.

Now Ehang, a Chinese drone maker brought a full-scale prototype of their human-carrying quadcopter dubbed the 184. Capable of vertical take-off and land (VTOL), it reportedly will have a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) and a flight endurance of just over 20-minutes given current battery technology. Powered by eight electric motors and propellers mounted at the end of four retractable pylons, as illustrated below, it can climb to an altitude of more than 11,000 ft, thought its intended operational altitude is between 1000 and 1,500 ft AGL (above ground level). According to Chief Marketing Officer Derrick Xiong the prototype has made some 100 test flights, a few with passenger aboard. Unlike most other aircraft, there are not flight controls in the one-person, enclosed cabin; just a large computer touch screen in which to input your destination.

The target price is thought to be between $200-300K, putting it squarely in the price range of more conventional fixed wing aircraft. Before anyone flies it, at least in the USA, it will have to received FAA certification, which could be a time consuming and expensive process. So far, the Gangzhou-based company has raised $50 million for the project, the ultimate aim of which is to provide 'on-demand' aerial taxi services, a veritable 'Lyft' of the air, so to speak.

Ehang 184 VTOL autonomous quadcopter

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