EHang’s passenger drone has picked up the ability to fly autonomously and will reportedly begin servicing Dubai this summer. The single-passenger quadcopter, dubbed the 184 for its one passenger, eight propellers, and four arms, operates within a radius of around 50 kilometers, and carries enough charge for a single trip in the outskirts of that range. A separate compartment sits in the back for a small suitcase, and passengers can weigh up to 100 kilograms, or about 220 pounds. While this leaves out a portion of the big and tall crowd, passengers up to that threshold will be able to enjoy up to a 30 minute flight at speeds of about 100 kilometers per hour, a bit lower than the rig’s top speed of 160 kilometers per hour. An exact date for rollout was not mentioned, nor was a price point.
The EHang 184 has already had numerous tests in Dubai, including flying over one of the city’s most iconic buildings, but authorities still have their concerns. Drones have caused shutdowns at local airports in the past, sometimes for over an hour, despite having to be registered to their owners for accountability. The EHang 184 is controlled through LTE, which means that encountering an area of low or no signal will leave it with only its own wits to depend on for navigation. While it does have advanced navigation and mapping software on board and doesn’t have to compete with the car-choked streets below, a flight going awry could still mean an emergency landing or worse.
This initiative is the latest in a long line of driverless transport moves that are poised to take the transport scene in Dubai by storm in the near future. The local ruler has expressed a wish for at least 25% of all passenger trips in the city to have no human control by 2030. The city is already running tests of a driverless vehicle from France, called the EZ10, and is currently looking into the possibility of installing a hyperloop line. The head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency, Mattar al-Tayer, announced that the EHang 184 will be flying at the World Government Summit, giving it a chance to strut its stuff in front of a large audience.