Technology

CES 2016: Chinese drone maker unveils passenger-carrier Ehang 184

Las Vegas: Chinese drone maker Ehang has unveiled what it calls the world's first drone capable of carrying a human passenger.

The Guangzhou, China-based company pulled the cloth off the Ehang 184 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre during the CES gadget show. In a company video showing it flying, it looks like a small helicopter but with four doubled propellers spinning parallel to the ground like other drones.

The EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle is unveiled at CES International in Las Vegas. The drone can carry a human ...
The EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle is unveiled at CES International in Las Vegas. The drone can carry a human passenger at about 300 metres altitude for 23 minutes. Photo: John Locher

The electric-powered drone can be fully charged in two hours, carry up to 100kg and fly for 23 minutes at sea level, according to Ehang. The cabin fits one person. With propellers folded up, it's designed to fit in a single parking spot.

After setting a flight plan, passengers only need to give two commands, "take off" and "land", each controlled by a single click on a Microsoft Surface tablet, the company said.

The EHang 184 is controlled by a Microsoft Surface tablet to fly a pre-determined route. A passenger simply presses ...
The EHang 184 is controlled by a Microsoft Surface tablet to fly a pre-determined route. A passenger simply presses 'take off' and 'land'. Photo: AP

It is designed to fly about 300 metres off the ground with a top speed of 100km/h.

US authorities are just starting to lay out guidelines for drone use, and a human-passenger drone seems certain to face strict scrutiny.

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Ehang co-founder Shang Hsiao said the company hopes to sell the device for $US200,000 ($427,131) to $US300,000 ($427,131) beginning this year but acknowledged it occupies a legal "grey area."

"The whole world never had something like this before," he said.

The EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle has a top speed of 100km/h, but will cost between $US200,000 ($427,131) to ...
The EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle has a top speed of 100km/h, but will cost between $US200,000 ($427,131) to $US300,000 ($427,131). Photo: AP

A passenger would have no controls as a back-up, he said. In the event of a problem the company plans a remote control centre that would take over the vehicle and ensure it lands safely, he said.

AP