Chinese drone maker EHang has unveiled what it claims the world’s first drone capable of carrying a human passenger.
The company unveiled the quadcopter at the CES show in Las Vegas overnight.
Called the EHang 184, it can be recharged in two hours, and carry 100kg for 23 minutes at sea level at speeds of up to 100km/h.
It has a maximum altitude of 3500m.
And it’s all controlled by a Microsoft Surface tablet. Look:
The only input it requires is a flight plan, and “take off” and “land” commands.
EHang founder Huazhi Hu started the company after the death of his friend and his friend’s helicopter instructor in separate incidents several years ago.
In 2014, he pulled together an engineering team which included those who worked with him in 2005 to build the coaxial double rotor helicopter in China.
The double rotor setup now features on the EHang 184’s four propellors spinning parallel to the ground.
Safety is paramount, says the company. It has flown the EHang 184 more than 100 times, including several flights already with a human passenger.
EHang says if three of the 184’s four propeller arms fail, the vehicle can still make a safe, albeit bumpy, landing.
Ehang co-founder and CFO Shang Hsiao said EHang 184 is expected to sell for $US200,000 to $US300,000 beginning this year.
But he admitted there was still a large grey area to be clarified over the use of drones per se, let alone drones that carry humans.
“The whole world never had something like this before,” he said.
The company has raised $US42 million from various investors including GP Capital, GGV Capital, and ZhenFund, on top of $10 million in capital raised the previous year.