It has been over two years since Chinese drone company Ehang appeared at CES, offering the promise of a future in which they would lead the autonomous, passenger-carrying quadcopter revolution. Their Ehang 184 was rolled out in 2016 as the vehicle through which that transportation revolution would be powered, but at the time some were skeptical that a fancy design and animated renderings would come to fruition, at least not any time soon.
Those who questioned Ehang’s intentions to invest the time and capital necessary to take the first major step in the race to a functional, safe passenger drone have to be eating their words after a video emerged showing that the Ehang 184 is in fact functional.
The electrically-powered air taxi relies on four propellers designed in a manner that are similar to, yet far more powerful than, the many quad-bot drones which have become popular among consumers. As the video shows, the Ehang 184 can carry two people with an approximate weight limit of 460 pounds. This is a vast improvement over the 2016 reports from Ehang, which stated then that the Ehang could carry one person with a weight capacity of 220 pounds. The 2016 top speed of 60 mph has been replaced with a speedometer that goes as high as 80 mph.
Eventually, the government of Dubai plans on using quadcopters as a traffic-alleviation measure. It’s fitting, as cutting edge is just what Dubai does.
The 184 is no fragile butterfly, either, as it is capable of handling fog, darkness, and even a moderate typhoon. While Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu admits there is uncertainty over the passenger drone’s availability to the consumer market, they have conducted over 1,000 flight tests with over 40 different people, including the flight recorded for public consumption. Hu is concerned with ensuring the product is safe more so than a dollars-driven premature rush to market.
Performing manned test flights enables us to demonstrate the safety and stability of our vehicles, Hu said in a press release. What we’re doing isn’t an extreme sport, so the safety of each passenger always comes first.