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Forget driverless cars, someone made an autonomous personal transportation drone

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:10PM EST
EHang 184 Personal Transportation Drone
Image: EHang

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We thought Parrot’s Disco might be the most interesting drone coming out of CES 2016, but there’s one project that’s even more daring. The EHang 184 is a “first-ever autonomous aerial vehicle” that was announced at CES on Wednesday.

That’s right, the drone in the image above can transport actual people – well, one at a time – without a pilot. Considering that retailers are looking to use drones to fulfill same-day deliveries, driverless drones for humans is probably the next logical step. However, don’t expect regulators to allow such products to fly around cities any time soon.

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The EHang 184 comes from a Chinese company that has been taking drone design to a new level. To fly the drone, the passenger would simply need to enter the destination into a smartphone app, and the EHang 184 would presumably take him or her there.

According to the company, safety is a prime concern for the drone, as the EHang 184 has backup systems for all flight system. A fail-safe system is also in place to ensure the integrity of the aircraft – in the case of an accident in the sky, the EHang 184 can presumably decide to land if any damage is detected.

A series of sensors feed information to the app, including real-time data collected during the flight to provide the fastest and safest ride. The application is protected by encryption to prevent external attacks, and manual controls allow the passenger to stop the flight and hover in the air in case a particular danger is detected.

The all-electric single-seat EHang 184 drone takes off vertically, and lands in the same manner. The drone is 1.5m tall and weighs 200kg by itself, having a 100kg maximum load capacity. The drone has an autonomy of around 23 minutes and an average cruising speed of 100km/h. The EHang 184 is powered by eight motors that have a maximum output of 106W.

Inside the cockpit, a tablet lets the passenger control the ride. Other perks include AC and 4G Wi-Fi Internet.

The following video further details this exciting CES 2016 product, but we really have no idea when consumers will be able to buy or rent one, or how much it’ll cost.

The full press release follow below.

EHang Launches First-Ever Autonomous Aerial Vehicle “EHang 184” at CES

Groundbreaking Vehicle Marks a New Chapter in Transportation; Initial Design Showcased at CES

January 6, 2015, LAS VEGAS – EHang, a Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) company, unveiled today at CES the EHang 184, the world’s first electric, personal Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) that will achieve humanity’s long-standing dream of easy, everyday flight for short-to-medium distances. Developed independently by EHang, the fully ready-to-fly AAV is a manned drone capable of automatically carrying a passenger through the air, simply by entering a destination into its accompanying smartphone app. Due to the 184’s fully automated navigation, made possible by EHang’s 24/7, real-time flight command center, passengers have no need for a pilot’s license – they simply sit back and let the drone take over from there. This first realization of automated flight signifies a major turning point not only for the transportation industry, but also for a huge swath of other fields such as shipping, medical care and retail.

“It’s been a lifetime goal of mine to make flight faster, easier and more convenient than ever. The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy efficient way,” said EHang CEO Huazhi Hu. “I truly believe that EHang will make a global impact across dozens of industries beyond personal travel. The 184 is evocative of a future we’ve always dreamed of and is primed to alter the very fundamentals of the way we get around.”

The EHang 184, which was named for ‘one’ passenger, ‘eight’ propellers, and ‘four’ arms, is the next wave of innovation from EHang. Having already released a successful consumer product with their Ghost Drone line, EHang is now creating another disruptive and innovative technology to propel us towards the future of solo human transport. Significant features include:

Absolute Safety by Design: Automated flight eliminates the most dangerous part of standard modes of transportation: human error.

The EHang 184 has built in reinforcements for all flight systems, so that in the unlikely event that a component does fail, multiple backups are already in place to seamlessly take over.

EHang’s independently developed Fail-Safe System ensures that if any components malfunction, or if there’s damage while the AAV is in-flight (i.e. from a bird), the aircraft will immediately begin taking the necessary precautions to ensure safety. The 184’s Fail-Safe System automatically evaluates the damage and determines whether the AAV will need to land to ensure its passenger’s safety.

The EHang 184 AAV flight control systems have multiple sets of sensors that provide the drone a constant stream of real-time data.

The 184’s communication system was also designed with a safety guarantee: every system is encrypted, and each AAV comes with an independent key.

In the event of an emergency, passengers can elect to halt flight and simply hover in the air with just one click.

Automation: The 184 uses multiple independent flight control systems to automatically navigate passengers from point A to point B. These systems combine real-time data collected from sensors throughout the flight and automatically plot the fastest and safest route to carry passengers to their destinations.

Remedy for Aging Transportation Industry: The EHang 184 AAV takes off and lands vertically, subsequently eliminating the need for runways. Its foldable design solves the logistical and spatial issues that have constrained airplanes and other modes of air-travel from expanding into daily use. Mass-adoption of the 184 has the potential to streamline congested traffic and dramatically reduce the kinds of accidents associated with any human-operated vehicle.

The Power of Electricity: The 184 is 100 percent electric and doesn’t depend on fossil fuels, reducing our reliance on substances that can be environmentally damaging.

Sync-flight Management Platform: EHang is also building an advanced low-altitude flight command center which will be in constant contact with all of its flying vehicles. While the 184 is able to fly during thunderstorms and other extreme weather conditions, the command center can prohibit the AAV from taking off as a precaution.

Drone Specs and Passenger Experience
Standing 1.5 meters tall and weighing 200 kilograms (440 pounds), the EHang 184 AAV has a load capacity of 100 kilograms (220 pounds), with the maximum output of 106W powered by eight motors. It’s designed to have the capability to carry a single passenger for 23 minutes’ duration flight at sea level at average cruising speed of 100 km/h.

The EHang 184 AAV body consists of a cabin for single passenger with a gull-wing door, a trunk and the power system composed of four arms and eight propellers on the bottom. The four arms, when folded, allow the AAV to occupy the same size parking space as consumer cars.

Inside the cabin is placed a single seat, with a design similar to an F1 racing car seat. In front of the seat is a tablet console, through which passengers can easily input commands. Additionally, the cabin’s built-in air conditioner automatically adjusts the in-cabin temperature. Complete with 4G Wi-Fi Internet, EHang 184 provides passengers with comfortable and enjoyable riding experiences.

This first glimpse of the EHang 184 offers just a small sense of its massive potential, even beyond transporting passengers. It promises limitless possibilities and will undoubtedly impact the way we all travel in profound ways.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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