By the year 2018 we were all going to be zipping around in flying cars, right? That dream hasn’t come true, but one company just took a big step in that direction.
Drone company Ehang first impressed us at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show by unveiling the Ehang 184, the first autonomous aerial vehicle capable of carrying a human being. Fast forward to today and the company is showing off the first video footage of the Ehang 184 flying around with said humans inside.
The video shows the Ehang 184 taking off several times with passengers onboard, including Ehang’s founders, CTO and several government officials of Guangzhou, China. You catch a few hints of apprehension on most riders’ faces as they buckle in, but by the time they lift off and float around a bit, they’re waving, snapping photos and giving thumbs ups.
The drone resembles an over-sized DJI Mavic Pro. It has a rated payload limit of 220 pounds and a cruising altitude of 500m. According to Ehang, the drone has a speed of up to 130 km/h, or 80 mph.
While the Ehang 184 will be ferrying people around, the all-electric drone itself is unmanned, flying itself autonomously. All passengers have to do is set their flight path, press ‘Take Off’ and enjoy the ride.
For those with the itch to fly on their own, Ehang is working to add a manual control option so people with pilot experience can take over the controls. This is in addition to further passenger-experience improvements Ehang has planned, as well as a two-seat version that’s in development.
Though Ehang’s video has footage of various test scenarios, it still may be a while before the drone is commercially available. “Regular operations” with the drone were supposed to get underway in Dubai as early as July 2017, but that hasn’t happened yet as far as we know.
“This is a step-by-step process, and at Ehang, we have our own road map,” said Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu in a press release. “When it comes to the development and application of any transformative technology, first the technological innovation makes an impact, then the relevant policies are created and developed. This goes on to push further development of the industry.”
Still, the video shows we’re not too far off from passenger-carrying drones becoming a reality. If, however, you’re afraid of heights like us, you may be looking for an alternative mode of eco-friendly transportation.