Are you willing to travel by drone? The EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle is unveiled at the EHang booth at CES International, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. The drone is large enough to fit a human passenger. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Are you willing to travel by drone?
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Chinese drone maker Ehang Inc. has unveiled what it calls the world's first drone capable of carrying a human passenger.
 
The company is based in Guangzhou, China.  It pulled the cloth off the Ehang 184 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  This was during the CES gadget show in early January. A company video showed it flying.  It looks like a small helicopter.  But it has four doubled propellers.  They spin parallel to the ground like other drones.
 
The electric-powered drone can be fully charged in two hours. It can carry up to 220 pounds.  It can fly for 23 minutes at sea level, according to Ehang. The cabin fits one person and a small backpack. The drone even has air conditioning and a reading light. With propellers folded up, it's designed to fit in a single parking spot.
 
After setting a flight plan, passengers only need to give two commands. Those are, "take off" and "land." Each is controlled by a single click on a Microsoft Surface tablet.
 
It is designed to fly about 1,000 to 1,650 feet off the ground. It has a maximum altitude of 11,500 feet.  Top speed is 63 miles per hour.
 
U.S. authorities are just starting to lay out guidelines for drone use. A human-passenger drone seems certain to face strict scrutiny.
 
Ehang co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Shang Hsiao said the company hopes to sell the device for $200,000 to $300,000 beginning this year.  But he acknowledged the device occupies a legal "gray area."  When or if it would be sold in the U.S. is a question.
 
"The whole world never had something like this before," he said.
 
A passenger would have no controls as a backup, Hsiao said. In the event of a problem, the company plans to have a remote control center.  It would take over the vehicle and ensure it lands safely, he said.
 
Chief Marketing Officer Derrick Xiong said the vehicle has been flown more than 100 times. It has flown at low altitudes.  Those flights have been in a forested area in Guangzhou.  The flights included several with a person inside.
 
One thing that makes quad-copters safer than helicopters is their numerous propellers, Xiong said. Even if three of the four arms have their six propellers disabled, the final arm's working propellers can ensure a rough landing by spiraling toward the ground, he said.
 
The company also makes smaller drones. It said in August it had raised $42 million in capital from various investors including GP Capital, GGV Capital, ZhenFund and others. That money is in addition to $10 million raised the previous year.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Can these drones replace airplanes?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (20)
  • kerstynneh1-wes
    1/13/2016 - 02:44 p.m.

    No theses drones can't replace airplanes becuse there is only one seat for a passenger and it can only fly up to 23mins and u could fall in the ocean and kill your shelf or even crash.

    • isaiahs2-rom
      3/02/2016 - 03:15 p.m.

      No because they can only fly up to 23 min.So No( ?° ?? ?°)

  • philllil0-dil
    2/04/2016 - 03:19 p.m.

    If you want more people to buy than you should remodel it to were it can hold up to 10 passengers. You also should add an area where you can store your items.

  • amartinez-gom
    2/11/2016 - 07:01 p.m.

    I don't think these drones can replace air planes because air planes can carry more people,have more power,and don't only fly for 23 min(max!)they can replace in the future if they had more power,more capacity,and more durancy.

    • andrewe1-rom
      2/29/2016 - 03:04 p.m.

      i agree with you drones can't replace air planes

    • andrewe1-rom
      2/29/2016 - 03:07 p.m.

      this creation is amazing and creative but it can't replace air planes it's a 35% chance of that happening

  • nadah-rom
    2/23/2016 - 03:02 p.m.

    no they can not because air plans are better than drones because airplanes can carry all of people and a drones can onley carrey 1 person

  • jenasia-rom
    2/29/2016 - 03:15 p.m.

    I think there so coool I would actually buy one,and no they can't replace airplanes because only one person can get in there.

  • neftalic-rom
    3/02/2016 - 02:51 p.m.

    I think these drones cannot replace airplanes because they can only fit one person and u don't have a lot of control over them.I would really like to fly one sometime .

  • chevisr-rom
    3/02/2016 - 02:57 p.m.

    no it cant because the drone only carry one person and little backpack when when airplanes can carry about 30 people on bored

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