The Ehang 184, the world’s first passenger drone that stole the show at CES 2016, might be a step closer to being tested in the United States. The Chinese drone firm has received approval from Nevada’s governor’s office to develop and test the Ehang 184 at the state’s Federal Aviation Administration-approved drone test site.
Ehang said it expects testing to commence later in 2016. However, the FAA hasn’t approved anything about the Ehang 184, so it’s still up in the air as to whether this will actually happen.
This collaboration hopes to develop test criteria that will prove to the FAA that the Ehang 184 passenger drone is safe for the skies. Ehang will be working with both the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) on flight testing, training, and development of the 184 passenger drone.
The 184 is essentially your own personal helicopter, but I’m still skeptical it will ever be approved by the FAA. Ehang co-founder and CEO Huazhi Hu is a little more confident.
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“Partnering with GOED and NIAS is a big step for EHang 184 to move forward to government regulatory approval of the unprecedented innovation in US and globally, which will lay the foundation for its commercialization and building up the aerial transportation ecosystem in the future.”
I won’t be able to afford one, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. Ehang co-founder and CFO Shang Hsiao said the 184 passenger drone would cost $200,000-$300,000.
The 184 (one passenger, eight propellers, four arms) is an electric-powered drone that can be fully charged in two hours and fly for 23 minutes with a top speed of 63 MPH. The cabin has air conditioning and a reading light.
Ehang says the 184 has all sorts of built-in failsafes, including multiple power backups, auto-landing in case of trouble, and an On-Star-like command center for fliers who need help. After setting a flight plan, passengers needed only to give two commands – “take off” and “land” – done with a single click on a tablet.
“The State of Nevada, through NIAS, will help guide Ehang through the FAA regulatory process with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight,” said Tom Wilczek, GOED’s Aerospace and Defense Industry Specialist. “Ehang’s selection of Nevada to test its people-carrying drone marks a thrilling addition to the innovative companies testing throughout our state to advance the commercial drone industry. I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system.”
This is just another example of Nevada being a hotbed for drone development. Nevada is also home to Flirtey, a drone startup which completed both the first FAA-approved drone delivery and first FAA-approved urban drone delivery in United States history. Flirtey’s six-rotor delivery drone was recently accepted into the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.