Chinese drone maker unveils human-carrying drone

January 6, 2016 byRyan Nakashima
The EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle is unveiled at the EHang booth at CES International, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. The drone is large enough to fit a human passenger. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Chinese drone maker Ehang Inc. on Wednesday unveiled what it calls the world's first drone capable of carrying a human passenger.

The Guangzhou, China-based company pulled the cloth off the Ehang 184 at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the CES gadget show. In a company video showing it flying, it looks like a small helicopter but with four doubled spinning parallel to the ground like other drones.

The electric-powered drone can be fully charged in two hours, carry up to 220 pounds and fly for 23 minutes at sea level, according to Ehang. The cabin fits one person and a small backpack and even has air conditioning and a reading light. With propellers folded up, it's designed to fit in a single parking spot.

After setting a flight plan, passengers only need to give two commands, "take off" and "land," each controlled by a single click on a Microsoft Surface tablet, the company said.

It is designed to fly about 1,000 to 1,650 feet off the ground with a maximum altitude of 11,500 feet and top speed of 63 miles per hour.

U.S. authorities are just starting to lay out guidelines for drone use, and a human-passenger seems certain to face strict scrutiny.

The EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle is unveiled at the EHang booth at CES International, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. The drone is large enough to fit a human passenger. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Federal Aviation Administration administrator Michael Huerta was at CES but could not immediately be reached for comment through a spokesman.

Ehang co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Shang Hsiao said the company hopes to sell the device for $200,000 to $300,000 beginning this year but acknowledged it occupies a legal "grey area."

"The whole world never had something like this before," he said.

People crowd around the EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle at the EHang booth at CES International, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. The drone is large enough to fit a human passenger. (AP Photo/John Locher)

A passenger would have no controls as a backup, he said. In the event of a problem the company plans a remote control center that would take over the vehicle and ensure it lands safely, he said.

Chief Marketing Officer Derrick Xiong said the vehicle has been flown more than 100 times at low altitudes in a forested area in Guangzhou, including several times with a person inside.

One thing that makes quad-copters safer than helicopters are its numerous propellers, Xiong said. Even if three of the four arms have their six propellers disabled, the final arm's working propellers can ensure a rough landing by spiraling toward the ground, he said.

The , which also makes smaller drones, said in August it had raised $42 million in capital from various investors including GP Capital, GGV Capital, ZhenFund and others, following $10 million in capital raised the previous year.

Explore further: Chinese company limits US drone use after White House crash

More information: Ehang Inc. ehang.com/

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14 comments

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johnhew
not rated yet Jan 06, 2016
'106kw (8 motor)' (200Kg net weight, 14.4 kwh total energy consumption)
Is that each or total ??
TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2016
Hello John. Shopping for a new toy?
'106kw (8 motor)' (200Kg net weight, 14.4 kwh total energy consumption)
Is that each or total ??

Since the total power consumption is 14.4kwh, it would be for the 8 motors.
http://www.ehang....4/specs/
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2016
Taxi...!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2016
Taxi...!

Since it's "point and click": Definitely an application.

There need to be controlled landing/parking zones* for these in any case. Having everyone fly around with 8 exposed rotors that can land anywhere would be a recipe for mayhem.

*And some form of automatic air traffic control/pathing that coordinates them once more than two are in the air.
Multivac jr_
1 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2016
Hack the control center and kidnapping people who have enough money to buy one of these becomes almost comically-easy.

Or just wait and see if the rate of successful emergency landings (i.e. those that the rider survives) is the same among people the Chinese government considers troublemakers as it is among those it considers "good citizens."

Of course, that assumes one is not experiencing a major malfunction at ~1500' while the control center is also coincidentally experiencing it's own glitch(es). It'll give a whole new meaning to the phrase "down time," especially if it happens at rush-hour.

In any case I bet the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Securitytheater is *thrilled* about the development of slow-speed, autonomous aerial vehicles capable of delivering a 220-lb. payload ~20 miles away in ~20 minutes.
daqddyo
not rated yet Jan 07, 2016
I don't see the parachute pack for the unit. If this thing goes haywire in the air, I wouldn't want to be bailing out with 6 or 7 of the spinning props whizzing around me.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2016
If this thing goes haywire in the air, I wouldn't want to be bailing out with 6 or 7 of the spinning props whizzing around me.
That's the problem with helicopters.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2016
I don't see the parachute pack for the unit.

As they note: the thing can land (albeit hard) if at least one rotor is still working. But as long as the control units are redundant and the power units are distributed that shouldn't be a problem.

As these things travel at around 1000feet I wouldn't sweat packing a parachute in any case. By the time you notice that something is wrong, removed the safety belt, opened the door and have exited the canopy (assuming you already donned a parachute when entering) you're way too low for a parachute drop unless you're trained for this kind of thing.

(Also quadcopters without any power whatsoever aren't aerodynamically stable. Getting out of a tumbling vehicle is a lot more difficult than getting out of a plane that is taking a nosedive)
jeffensley
5 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2016
Looks really cool...

A passenger would have no controls as a backup, he said.


Nope, nevermind.
katesisco
not rated yet Jan 07, 2016
Was reading that a S A city is the helicopter capitol of the world, Sao Paulo, and that is probably going to be the first take over target for drone chops.
Dark_Solar
1 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2016
Wait...what?!!

"One thing that makes quad-copters safer than helicopters are its numerous propellers, Xiong said. Even if three of the four arms have their six propellers disabled, the final arm's working propellers can ensure a rough landing by spiraling toward the ground, he said."

That's mechanically impossible; one impulse source at the end of a lever and well away from the center of mass? Tthe only thing that's certain to happen during a three-spar full mechanical faliure is unconsciousness due to centripetal black-out before you die at whatever acceleration is achieved before this thing cart-wheels into the dirt. Let's hope this is a translation error.
cracker_mon
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
If it's carrying a human then it isn't a drone.
AGreatWhopper
1 / 5 (2) Jan 23, 2016
After setting a flight plan, passengers only need to give two commands, "take off" and "land," each controlled by a single click on a Microsoft Surface tablet, the company said.


Evolution in action. Anyone stupid enough to fly in something with Microshaft software deserves to be eliminated from the gene pool. Never ceases to amaze how people design critical systems for radiation therapy, chemical plants, now flying "cars"...and don't consider it critical to use an OS that can manage memory properly, actually multi-task and doesn't obscure core OS code and functionality.
AGreatWhopper
1 / 5 (3) Jan 23, 2016
If it's carrying a human then it isn't a drone.


The human isn't flying it, so it's a drone. Maybe bother to look up basic definitions before promulgating your wisdumb?

lol If someone shoots my corpse into space on a rocket is that "manned space flight"?

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