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?
Lexile

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 during the CES gadget show in early January. In a company video showing it flying, it looks like a small helicopter.  But it has four doubled propellers spinning 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 and 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, "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, and 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 in a forested area in Guangzhou.  Those 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 in capital 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 (279)
  • taylore-1-bar
    1/11/2016 - 09:30 p.m.

    The human-flying drone can not replace airplanes because they hold one person and go 64 mph with only 23 minutes of flying time. Where, planes can hold multiple people, fly around 500 mph and fly for as long as 24 hours. I thought this article was interesting because drones could be taking over instead of cars. This surprised me because I didn't know drones could be bigger than a basketball.

  • camdenm-eva
    1/12/2016 - 09:07 a.m.

    That's so cool that drones are probably going to be sold.

  • natef-har
    1/12/2016 - 09:17 a.m.

    These drones cannot replace airplanes. I say this because they aren't very big so if people are in a hurry to get somewhere, it can only hold one person. In the article it says "The cabin fits one person and a small backpack". Also, the drone cannot fly for a long period of time. Some evidence from the article to support this is they say it can only fly for 23 minutes at sea level.

  • willb-612-
    1/12/2016 - 10:11 a.m.

    No, Because it can only hold one person like in a plane it can hold more than one.

  • tyl-612-
    1/12/2016 - 10:12 a.m.

    No, because this thing can only hold one person and air planes can hold from 8 to 200 people to travel all over the world they also run off of gas so they can run more then 23 minutes.

  • mauryg-612-
    1/12/2016 - 10:21 a.m.

    I'm not sure if it'll replace airplanes because it's not so big and you don't no know if it's sturdy enough to hold a person or somebody might get claustrophobic because it's so small think about that?

  • ritav-hol
    1/12/2016 - 11:24 a.m.

    No, I wouldn't fly in a drone I would feel unsafe than in a plane where I would be safe.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    1/12/2016 - 01:27 p.m.

    These drones cannot possibly replace airplanes at this point. There is a weight limit and goes less than 70 miles per hour. Until the craft gets bigger and faster, the drone will stay a singular piece of aircraft.

  • tialden-1-bar
    1/12/2016 - 07:12 p.m.

    No these drones cannot replace airplanes because these drones can only hold one passenger but airplanes can hold many. Also the drones only travel 63 mph as stated in the article which is too slow compared to an airplane. I thought this article was very interesting because I would like to travel in a drone.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    1/13/2016 - 01:34 a.m.

    The people had created a drone that can carry passengers around might have made it to be carrying one passenger on a single drone which people can be able to fly around the drone to places where they've never been to. The people had are really on to flying the drones in the future might be able to easily get around to places where they have never been to flying in the air. The drones might have been able to go on flying to countries by people had never been to before which the person might be declared lucky because he could go to other places with his drone. Drones might have been able to be changed over time because drones had been first used to entertain people but not it is used to be flown by people piloting the drone to places.
    Critical Thinking Question: Can these drones replace airplanes?
    Answer: No because drones are required with electricity which people can only fly to place only for a short time and it only carries only one person which an airplane can hold up a lot of passengers than one seat drone.

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