Gadgets for humans

Ehang proves its passenger drones are the real deal in new flight footage

Chinese drone maker Ehang wowed visitors at CES 2016 when it brought along a prototype of its passenger drone; however, it didn’t have much else to show at the time. Now, it’s released footage of the 184 in flight with a passenger for the first time, with the company’s CEO on board.

Following ‘1000 tests’, Ehang took to YouTube to show off the drone in action with CEO Huazhi Hu, as well as other senior management, and deputy mayor of the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where the trials took place. Besides talking up the 184’s ease of use, Hu also highlighted the drone’s ability to fly safely and precisely, thanks to an advanced onboard operating system.

The 184 is designed for short flights – think quick commutes within a city. It can be piloted using simple controls or by simply choosing a destination to be flown to and dropped off automatically.

While it’s interesting to see just how far Ehang has come with its drone tech, it still has to work out ways of getting through all the regulations and requirements from transport authorities and local governments before its vehicles can take flight. The Emirati city of Dubai announced plans to fly people across town in Ehang’s drones by last July, so there’s certainly some enthusiasm there.

It isn’t clear how long we’ll have to wait until we can actually get to the office by passenger drone – but Ehang mentioned a summer 2018 date at the end of its clip, so perhaps it’s set itself a target date for a launch of some sort. It’ll be interesting to see if the Chinese firm can beat out Munich-based Lilium Aviation to bring its vehicle to the market; Lilium showed off a VTOL flying taxi last April, and raised $90 million in funding in September 2017. This’ll be a fun race to watch.

Published February 6, 2018 — 06:34 UTC