Behold the Ehang 184, a passenger-carrying drone that might not be another tech show gimmick.
Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang has released new footage (video below) of its latest manned aerial vehicle test flight – and it looks pretty mind-blowing.
The Ehang 184 is a two-seated aerial vehicle that is lifted and propelled by an electric-powered multi-rotor system. It can carry multiple passengers with a payload of up to 280 kilograms (617 pounds). It’s all autonomous, so the vehicle will fly itself to a set landing point using a navigational computer system and landing camera.
In a vertical climbing test, the vehicle managed to ascend to an altitude of 300 meters (980 feet). A separate long-range test flight saw it traverse up to 8.8 kilometers (5.4 miles), reaching top speeds of 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour. Test flights also demonstrated how the vehicle can safely fly at night in the fog and during a Category 7 typhoon.
"This makes you feel like you have traveled into the future like you're in a sci-fi movie," Ehang founder and CEO, Huazhi Hu, said in the video, "but this is real, right here, right now."
Just so you know they’re serious, Ehang has also done numerous test flights with the company’s founders, vice presidents, and chief financial officers, along with numerous government officials from the local Guangzhou area in China.
"If any components malfunction or disconnect, the aircraft will immediately land in the nearest possible area to ensure safety," the company said on their website. "The communication is encrypted and each [autonomous aerial vehicle] has its independent key."
You might remember Ehang’s drone from its much-hyped debut at CES in 2016. Like many of these hard-to-believe tech show schticks, they are good at grabbing headlines but pretty poor at delivering. Well, if this video is anything to go by, Ehang isn’t messing around. While getting these things is no small feat, and it's unlikely to happen within the coming few years, the company seems to be in it for the long game.
"This is a step-by-step process and at EHANG, we have our own road map," Huazhi Hu said in a statement. "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."