EHang’s 184 AAV stands apart from the other the quad-, hexa-, and octocopters that fill CES’s drone exhibits. It’s far bigger than most. It’s not being flown. And while it is a drone, you can’t call it an unmanned aerial vehicle — because it can carry a single human passenger.
The idea is to ease people’s commutes (evoking one of Blade Runner’s spinners is just a bonus). EHang says the composite-built, battery-powered 184 AAV — the name is short for one passenger and eight propellers on four arms — can fly for 23 minutes on a charge, with speeds averaging about 60 miles an hour.
But it won’t be cheap when (or if) it goes on sale sometime later this year, as this Guangzhou, China-based firm hopes.
“We don’t have a real list price, but we’re thinking $300,000-ish,” business-development vice president Claire Chen said.
It should weigh 441lbs empty, and its self-loading cargo and his or her baggage can’t add more than 220lbs to that total. As with other drones, you’d use an app to plot your course; no traditional controls are visible inside the demo model parked at EHang’s exhibit.
Chen said it would not be as loud as a helicopter. After the 184’s gull-wing doors close, noise-cancellation technology in the interior could further quiet the ride for the passenger.
Beyond whether this company can make this work both as a flying machine and as a business, there’s also the issue of how to regulate it. Chen said the company doesn’t know how it would be classified under Federal Aviation Administration requirements; an FAA rep at the agency’s stand on the show floor, maybe 100 feet away from EHang’s outpost, said they’re not sure either.
And do I want to be the first person to review this thing? I’m not sure of that either.