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Science, Inventions & Space Discuss Chinese company unveils world’s first passenger drone at CES at the General Discussion; [quote] The Chinese startup company Ehang unveiled yesterday at CES what it claims is the first passenger drone, capable of ...

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Old 01-07-2016, 09:53 PM
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Post Chinese company unveils world’s first passenger drone at CES

The Chinese startup company Ehang unveiled yesterday at CES what it claims is the first passenger drone, capable of carrying one person for about 20 minutes. According to a report in The Guardian: "The cabin fits one person and a small backpack and is fitted with air conditioning and a reading light. It is designed to fit, with propellers folded, in a single parking spot." The company hopes to sell the device for $200,000 to $300,000 (£140,000 to £200,000) later this year.

The Ehang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) weighs 200 kilograms (440lbs), and has four sets of paired electric motors. The company claims the batteries can be charged in two to four hours. The drone is controlled via a tablet, which is used to set the flight path before take-off. According to the company's website: "Ehang 184 AAV flies in a inverted U shape. 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 Ehang Logo. The landing camera will position the landing targets automatically and accurately."

Since the passenger has zero inflight control over the machine, safety is naturally a major concern. The company claims: "Even with one propeller malfunctions, it can still land in the nearest possible area safely." In addition, if any other components malfunction or disconnect, "the aircraft will immediately land in the nearest possible area to ensure safety."

According to The Guardian, the company also says it is planning to set up a remote control centre that would take over the vehicle if there were a problem. In tests, the vehicle has been flown more than 100 times at low altitudes in a forested area in Guangzhou, where Ehang is based, including several times with a person on board.

Ehang was founded in 2014, and has raised over $50 million (£34 million) in capital from various investors. It is best known for its Ghostdrone product. The Ehang 184 represents an ambitious extension of its activities beyond these smaller, traditional drones.

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