Uber might soon have a competitor that is too advanced for them to compete with. During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, an autonomous human-carrying drone was presented that could, if approved for flight, become the primary transportation choice for people in a hurry. It would, if you will, become the twenty-first-century drone taxis. Or at least that is what we would all like to think.
The eHANG 184 is the world’s first single-human autonomous drone vehicle, and it is developed and manufactured in China by eHANG. The ambition behind the project could come to change transportation forever. Its, for now, limited flight time will, however, be a temporary problem as it can only stay in the air for 23 minutes. But as we all know, this could be improved with better battery technology.
The autonomous drone taxis, if we are allowed to call them that, have a top speed of 62 miles per hour and the people riding in it have no means of taking control of it. It is entirely autonomous and that, as we know, makes people uncomfortable. However, eHANG commented on the concern and said the drone taxis are equipped with sensors to avoid obstacles, programs that automatically land the drone in a case of an emergency and an on-the-ground command center staffed with humans to provide back-up.
Thanks to a partnership with Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), a nonprofit sponsored by the state’s Office of Economic Development, the eHANG 184 will take its first flight in Nevada later this year. Something that, in all honesty, should attract as much interest as when SpaceX landed their first-stage rocket safely on planet earth again after launching to the edge of space.
If the flight is successful, NIAS will also help secure eHANG 184’s flight approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, something that all new flying vehicles have to be approved for. This is essential if the eHANG should at all have a commercial future and be allowed to make their drone taxis available on the market. If and when the drone hits the market it is estimated to be priced somewhere between $200,000 to $300,000.
With SpaceX heading for Mars in 2018 and the looming thin promise of flying drone taxis, the future looks to be quite exciting. We will continue to report on the progress of the approval of the eHANG 184, so keep coming back for more. – Do you have something to add to the story? Please tell us in the comment section below.