This new drone lets people fly without a pilot


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BY: ALEX BROWN

A few days before the Ehang 184 hit the internet like a storm, I was having a conversation with a few friends about the insanity of modern innovation and what the future may hold, specifically, in the realm of drones. The conversation quickly turned to the possibility of a drone large enough to transport people, something absolutely plausible but likely belonging to a somewhat distant future. But time moves fast, and two days later, news of the Ehang 184 came rolling into my newsfeed.

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Designed by Ehang Inc., the modestly-named 184 is essentially an autonomous helicopter drone designed for human flight and resembling a larger version of the classic quadcopter drones we’ve all begun to grow accustomed to. At 18 feet long, the drone’s eight propellers operate at 142 horsepower, allowing it to reach potential heights of 11,500 feet and speeds of 62 mph. The 184’s battery requires two hours of charging time for a mere 23-minute flight. The machine is capable of hauling 220 pounds.

At 18 feet long, the drone’s eight propellers operate at 142 horsepower, allowing it to reach potential heights of 11,500 feet and speeds of 62 mph.

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According to Tech Times, Huazhi Hu, the CEO of Ehang, embarked on the project following the death of his two friends, both pilots killed in plane crashes. Naturally, safety is Hu’s first concern when it comes to the 184. Still though, as Tech Times also claims, Ehang is yet to demonstrate the 184 in flight with a passenger, and so far, all the videos of test-runs have been unmanned flights. Though the main promotional video for the 184 appears to have a passenger, with the 184’s tinted windows and camera magic, it’s tough to verify this claim.

The beauty of the 184 is that it flies autonomously—that’s right, it’s self-flying. This makes it a convenient tool for anyone who can afford it, as a pilot’s license isn’t necessary. Flying the 184 is as easy as punching directions into a GPS. The 184 also comes with air-conditioning and a reading light—though I suspect anyone using the 184 would have their eyes fastened to the view outside their windows.

The 184’s battery requires two hours of charging time for a mere 23-minute flight. The machine is capable of hauling 220 pounds.

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The beauty of the 184 is that it flies autonomously—that’s right, it’s self-flying. This makes it a convenient tool for anyone who can afford it, as a pilot’s license isn’t necessary.

Gadget Show EHang

In terms of safety, power backups and automated systems are designed to land the drone safely should trouble arise or any of the propellers fail. Anyone who owns the DJI Phantom (the small, typical video drone) can likely grasp the drone’s vague logistics. The company also claims that the machine will be safer than driving, as car accidents are typically the result of human negligence, and automated systems are far more trustworthy.

In terms of safety, power backups and automated systems are designed to land the drone safely should trouble arise or any of the propellers fail.

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Unfortunately, the 184 will not be coming to the U.S. anytime soon—the Federal Aviation Administration needs to give it a green light before anyone can legally commute via drone, not to mention all the strict regulations already in place for drone-flight. As no-fly zones continue to stack, so do the odds against the 184 becoming a realistic option for anyone—not that it ever was, considering the machine costs about $300,000.

Still, it’s the first glimpse into a bright future—much like the feeling of the internet’s first few steps. Sure, it exists, but it’ll be at least a decade before it becomes commonplace.

Image sourcing: suasnews.com,  cnet.com,  interestingengineering.com,  huffingtonpost.ca,  inhabitat.com