At the recent Las Vegas Consumer Electronic Show, dedicated to new technologies, drones took up an area of 25,000 square feet (8,000 m2). But it was a Chinese multi-rotor, which caused a sensation.
The EHang 184 developed in Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, is the world’s first multi-rotor flying machine capable of transporting a passenger completely autonomously.
It is therefore not a drone, which is by definition unmanned. Fully electric, the 6,5 feet long x 13 feet wide flying machine is powered by four pairs of contra-rotating rotors (8 in total). According to the manufacturer it can fly at an altitude of 1,650 feet (500 metres), and has a cruising speed of 60 mph (100 km/h).
Thanks to its embedded technology, the EHang 184 takes care of everything. The passenger defines the flight plan on a touch screen, then presses "take-off", and the machine does the rest. As for the landing, a simple click is all that’s needed.
Unlike the Volocopter VC200, of which we gave you an updated video in early December last year, pilotage of the Ehang 184 is fully automated. For now, the 440 lb (200 kg) prototype has only a 23-minute flight autonomy, for which it takes two to four hours to recharge the batteries.
Prior to its certification a number of questions will have to be answered – not the least of which is that of legislation; i.e., will the use of passenger-carrying autonomous multi-rotor aircraft one day be allowed? EHang nevertheless hopes to market it this year, which does seem somewhat over optimistic.
Its price tag is projected to be in the vicinity of 300,000 dollars.