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It was way back at CES 2016 when Ehang showed off a prototype of its passenger drone, the Ehang 184. There was an air of skepticism over its claims of autonomous flying, but the company has just released the first footage of the vehicle in flight with passengers on board.
Ehang claims it has carried out more than 1000 test flight over the years. In the video, the company said Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu and Wang Dong, the deputy mayor of Guangzhou, China, where the tests took place, are two of the 40 passengers to have taken to the skies in the craft.
The all-electric drone can carry passengers 10 miles or for up to 23 minutes of flight. The company says all someone has to do is input the destination and the aircraft will take them there—flying autonomously—and land. A human pilot stands ready to take over the controls remotely from a command center should anything go wrong.
The Ehang 184 has a rated payload limit of 220 pounds and a cruising altitude of 500m (1640 feet). It also boasts a speed of up to 80 mph. Ehang is working to improve the ride for passengers and is adding manual controls for those with piloting experience.
“Performing manned test flights enables us to demonstrate the safety and stability of our vehicles,” Hu says in the press release. “What we’re doing isn’t an extreme sport, so the safety of each passenger always comes first.”
No word on when the final product will be released, but Ehang said “we hope that we could attract more dealers and partners in 2018.”
Back in February 2017, it was announced that the Ehang 184 would become part of Dubai’s autonomous air taxi service, which was said to launch as early as July that same year. But it seems the launch date was a bit optimistic.
For those in the US looking forward to taking a ride in an autonomous drone, Uber hopes to bring its UberAIR flying taxi service to Los Angeles in 2020.