If – like many of us – you’ve been finding the idea of self-driving cars taking over the world a bit horrifying, you’ll be delighted to learn that there’s a company that envisions doing the same thing in the sky. Apparently cluttering the heavens with thousands of unmanned drones (they make the Ghost Drone) isn’t enough for the makers of the EHANG 184, they want to do it with manned drones too. If EHANG pulls it off, they’ll be like the “Uber of lift”. Or is that the “Lyft of Jetpacks”? We discussed being the “Uber of X” not long ago, and if you could create a self-piloted, self-navigating personal quadrocopter at a reasonable price, you’d definitely be the Uber of something. And that seems to be EHANG’s plan. A slightly strange plan, if you walk it through, but hey. We’re not here to stifle innovation. Bring on the Blade Runner flying cars! More below.
If you’re not familiar with the company, EHANG is an IndieGogo-funded startup that created the Ghost Drone, which is pitched as an easy-to-fly, app-controlled “drone for everyone”. The fact that this self-piloted personal transport is the company’s next major pursuit could be a good thing or a bad thing; while they clearly did a bang up job on the fundraising and marketing for the Ghost Drone, it’s not without its critics when it comes to the device’s functionality, engineering, and customer support. There are plenty of positive reviews out there too, but with the pervasiveness of “native advertising” and the likely bias of a reviewer who just got a free drone, well – you decide.
So what’s the basic plan for the vehicle?
Point to point flight…
…by tapping a tablet:
We’re withholding judgment until something more tangible is revealed. So far all the company is sharing is a presence at CES 2016, and a slightly buggy website with a lot of typos and some decent 3D renderings to accompany the text descriptions of the concept. So has anyone actually flown in it? None of the press we’ve seen even asks, but according to this Business Insider piece, there have been a 100 test flights. However, everyone seems to conveniently skirt the actual phrase “manned test flight”, and there are no videos or images available of anyone in the cockpit of an airborne prototype.
The video further below shows a man getting into the prototype’s cockpit but…
…the only in-flight shot with a passenger appears to be a mannequin, in a different version of the craft: