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 Guangzhou, China-based company pulled the cloth off the Ehang 184 at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the CES gadget show. In a company video showing it flying, it looks like a small helicopter but with 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, the company said.
 
It is designed to fly about 1,000 to 1,650 feet off the ground with 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."
 
"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 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 (56)
  • seann-hor
    1/12/2016 - 11:44 a.m.

    The authors purpose in writing this article is informative. I learned that the drone costs more than a house. I do agree flying in a drone. I just think its very expensive. Inconclusion, I found this article very cool!

  • colbyw-hor
    1/12/2016 - 05:08 p.m.

    This article was great for being very informative about the drones. I learned that drone travel for humans can be very possible and could even happen this year! I agree that they should keep researching on drone travel and make it an efficient way of travel with a cheap price. With this scientific break through we could be a lot more safe from car crashes and other accidents.

  • natalier-4-bar
    1/12/2016 - 09:53 p.m.

    These drones can not replace airplanes anytime soon because, "U.S. authorities are just starting to lay out guidelines for drone use, and a human-passenger drone seems certain to face strict scrutiny,"(paragraph six). The U.S is still just putting out their guidelines for drones so there is no way that they would let anyone go in a drone that is so new it may or may not work. Also according to paragraph three the drone can only hold 220 pounds and can only fly for 23 minutes and that is not nearly enough time to go anywhere far like airplanes do, and if you were going somewhere far you couldn't bring all your luggage because the drone can only fit a person and a small backpack. I liked this article but, I would never fly in a drone it is not safe enough yet and too new.

  • katherinec-3-bar
    1/13/2016 - 06:56 p.m.

    Drones cannot replace airplanes any time soon, because "US authorities are just starting to lay out the guidelines".

    I find this article very interesting because it is hard to imagine that anyone can fly on their own. This seems a little dangerous, but I am excited to see if this becomes more popular for air travel.

  • collinf-2-bar
    1/13/2016 - 08:38 p.m.

    I do not think the drones could replace airplanes because "the device occupies a legal 'gray area.'" Also it can't fly very long or fast, and can only hold one passenger.

    I was surprised that the drone would cost $200,000 to $300,000.

  • jeremym-
    1/14/2016 - 09:16 a.m.

    Yes i think they can because if the engines goes out on all four propellers it has 3 more safety engine to safely land it and as soon as the four propellers go out they start up and safely drag you back to the ground.

  • michaelg-ver
    1/14/2016 - 01:10 p.m.

    I think this is really cool. The thought of flying in a drone is very exciting to me and I hope it becomes more popular in the future.

  • elijahb-6-bar
    1/14/2016 - 08:30 p.m.

    I don't think the drones can replace airplanes unless they make it as big as a plane and as strong as a plane because in certain weather conditions this will not be the thing you should be flying in the air. This is a pretty cool thing that Ehang Inc. made. If I had one of these I would probably just fly it around the beach. I think this is a really cool thing and hope to see it in action one day.

  • vincents-1-bar
    1/14/2016 - 08:43 p.m.

    Drones can not replace airplanes any time soon because, "U.S. authorities are just starting to lay out guidelines for drone use, and a human-passenger drone seems certain to face strict scrutiny,"(paragraph six). The U.S is still just putting out their guidelines for drones so there is no way that they would let anyone go in a drone that is so new it may or may not work. Also according to paragraph three the drone can only hold 220 pounds and can only fly for 23 minutes and that is not nearly enough time to go anywhere far like airplanes do, and if you were going somewhere far you couldn't bring all your luggage because the drone can only fit a person and a small backpack.

  • sheilah-6-bar
    1/14/2016 - 09:55 p.m.

    Drones can replace airplanes. In the article it states that, "It is designed to fly about 1,000 to 1,650 feet off the ground with 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." The drones are for humans now and can be like a private plane for a single person. It wouldn't be as luxurious as a plane, but if someone wanted to go somewhere without airplane flying experience, drones would be easier. I find this article interesting because I didn't know that drones would be this big. In my opinion they are just making an advanced helicopter.

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