By Diane Shearer
Drones have become very popular lately but there is one thing missing, people can't ride in them.
Ehang CEO, Huazhi Hu began designing the one-seater electric drone a couple of years ago, after two of his pilot friends were killed in plane crashes. The one-seater drone has a carbon fiber/epoxy composite body, an aerial aluminum alloy frame, and eight motors putting out 142 hp/106 kW to eight propellers that are located on the top and bottom of one of four arms. Those arms can fold up when the drone is parked on the ground, allowing it to take up less space.
The main idea of the one-seater drone is so that people can have a form of short-to-medium-distance personal air transport that didn't require them to have a pilot's license. Its aim is to be the smallest, safest and most eco-friendly low altitude autonomous aerial vehicle. Ehang explains that “Users will simply get in, power it up, select their destination using a 12-inch touchscreen tablet display, then press the "take-off" button. The drone's automated flight systems will take over from there, managing tasks such as communication with air traffic control and other aircraft, obstacle avoidance, and navigation – it will always choose the fastest yet safest route between its present location and its destination. Failsafe systems will reportedly take over in the event of malfunctions, plus passengers can get the drone to stop and hover in place if needed.”
The world’s first autonomous aerial vehicle is already fully functional, with a worldwide series of demo flights scheduled to begin soon. It is said to be commercially available later this year, priced somewhere between US$200,000 and $300,000.