Sure, passenger-friendly helicopters have been a thing for decades. But the Ehang 184, first unveiled at CES 2016, is different; there's no pilot on board. This passenger drone has now been cleared for testing in Nevada.
We were pretty skeptical of this quadcopter when we first saw it, but Ehang is indeed partnering with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) in its fight for regulatory approval. Testing will be performed at Nevada's FAA unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) Test Site, located at the Desert Rock Airport in Mercury, NV.
Ehang claims the 184 can carry a 250-pound passenger for 23 minutes at 11,500 feet and moving at 63 miles per hour. That flight time is on a par with other much much smaller drones that aren't designed to go that fast or carry that much weight, making me questing this claim. The 184 should be able to take off vertically, just like a helicopter.
If Ehang can do all of of the above safely, your morning commute could someday be airborne. We were told at CES that the company has already flown about 100 test flights in China. Still, it will likely take years for approval.
The vehicle itself features four rotors, is about 5 feet tall and weighs about 440 pounds. It features two doors that open on an top hinge so it looks a little like wings. There doesn't appear to be any word on the company's plans for an object avoidance system, yet. We will keep you posted as more news develops.
An Ehang representative told us previously that the vehicle may cost between $200,000 and $300,000.