Chinese company unveils single-passenger drone at CES

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Jan. 7, 2016 at 1:11 PM
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LAS VEGAS, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Ehang, a Chinese company, unveiled the world's first commercially available passenger drone during the 2016 Consumer Electronic Show.

The Ehang 184 looks like a larger version of a quadcopter drone, but sports one special feature: a cockpit. Development for the transport vehicle began in 2013 in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

"Ehang 184 is the safest, smartest and ecofriendly low altitude autonomous aerial vehicle, or AAV, aiming on providing medium-short distance transportation solution," a narrator says in the Ehang 184's launch video.

The passenger drone is designed to fly at altitudes between about 1,000 feet and 1,600 feet -- with a top altitude of more than 11,000 feet, developers said.

Ehang touts the 184 as completely automated, meaning users only need to set coordinates via a touchscreen map and simply press a button to take off and to land.

"Ehangen 184 AAV flies in a inverted U shape," Ehang writes in a statement. "It takes off and lands vertically, point to point direct flight based on altitude and latitude of the origin and termination point. Take off/Landing points are landing targets pre-set with Ehangen Logo. The landing camera will position the landing targets automatically and accurately."

The company said the vehicle can fly for 23 minutes after two hours of charging while carrying a maximum weight of 220 pounds, equivalent to the average weight of a single person and some luggage.

The vehicle could cost nearly $300,000 but no official price has been determined. Ehang hopes to launch the 184 later this year.

"The 184 AAV is designed with full redundancy -- If one set of the power system are operating abnormal, the vehicle can still operate a normal flight plan and ensure the safety of the passenger together with the vehicle," Ehang said in a statement. "The 184 was designed to be a 100 percent with green technology, and is powered by electricity only."

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