Chinese company EHang has revealed a human-sized drone at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, which theoretically should be able to avoid all objects automatically, as well as managing to take off and land safely.
The EHang 184 looks a bit like a miniature helicopter, but with four ‘arms’ and eight rotors parallel to the ground (like most other drones) instead. It also includes in-flight Wi-Fi and air conditioning.
Weighing 440lbs, and able to carry up to 220lbs, the company claims it can lift an individual 500m into the air and fly them to places on Google Maps, although the battery only lasts for 23 minutes (what happens after the 23 minutes is a slightly worrying thought, but one I’m sure has been addressed… I hope).
The drone can be flown to safety by human pilots in ‘command centres’ should there be any issues during flight, although these centres will need to be custom built before it can happen. The pilot in the drone does not have any backup controls.
Reportedly costing between £130,000 and £200,000, the EHang 184 has been one of the biggest talking points so far at the Consumer Electronics Show. Unfortunately there is no release date as yet, but Shang Hsiao, co-founder of EHang (which was only founded in 2014), said he hoped for it to be released this year.
However, as exciting as such an invention is, there are problems facing it in terms of receiving certification from international flight authorities for it to be used. Under current laws, it would be illegal to fly the drone in the UK, and years of testing is still required before it can be rolled out to the public.