Human-carrying drone unveiled at CES

Jan 7, 2016

As might be expected, there are a lot of drones on display this week at CES. Almost all of them have one thing in common, however: people can’t ride in them. We say “almost all,” as there is one exception. Ehang’s 184 AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle) is designed to carry a single human passenger, autonomously flying them from one location to another.

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. He decided that people needed a form of short-to-medium-distance personal air transport that didn’t require them to have a pilot’s license, and that took much of the danger out of low-altitude flight.

The idea behind the Chinese-built 184 is 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 of course navigation – it will always choose the fastest yet safest route between its present location and its destination.

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15 comments on “Human-carrying drone unveiled at CES

  • This is effectively the flying car promised in Popular Mechanics circa 1958.

    The idea will kill itself if it becomes too popular. You can very well have manual traffic control of tens of thousands of vehicles. That too must be automated.

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  • flying car … traffic control

    The Jetsons.

    Nowadays, add fears of laser pointers (at human “pilot”), and ground based crazies who blast Thor knows what kind of projectile skyward. Hmmm, ‘Space Invaders’ come to life?

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  • To me, this is perfect for the ‘Google World” I envisage. Algorithms control flight landing and takeoffs at some airports now and will take over every aspect of flight with some safeguards in place of course. Quantum computers will manage millions of vehicles on land, sea and air. Slots for take off will be sent to your watch so you can get into the drone on time and not have to wait sipping your coffee that another drone delivered from Costa coffee.


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  • 23 minutes and a top speed of 62mph, means journeys over 10 miles (allowing for getting up, getting down, accelerating and decelerating) will be white knuckle rides.

    This needs turbine driven generators (the technology for high reliability high rotation rate generators using amorphous steel magnetic circuits is er taking off nicely) and ultra capacitors/graphene batteries to provide a get-you-down-safely back up, and wire protected/ducted blades to keep out birds, people and thrown stones.

    I can see many rescue scenarios for this, especially with de-skilled and autonomous flying and underslung carrying for the immobile.

    Energy efficiency will remain appalling.

    …I see it, though, mostly as a Darwinian selective device that works by eliminating both middle-aged boredom and the bored middle-aged.

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  • Fantastic! Put a human in it, call her/him the pilot, and the helicopter is invented. What do you mean “it’s already been invented”, oh well. (Note to self: Must keep up with technological developments.)

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  • they’re arming drones with humans..? sounds a bit mad but I like the idea

    is it the result of an overnight focus group of defence and marketing experts addressing “how to use drone technology to counter suicide bombers”?

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  • 9
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    I don’t see this as having any chance of becoming a mainstream means of commuting in densely populated urban areas. Too many opportunities for something to go wrong even if piloting is entirely automated. Electromagnetic interference is commonplace in civilization’s dense ocean of electromagnetic vaves.

    Add to the mix, disgruntled control center employees, less than perfect maintenance of the vehicles and the plain old law of statistics and tragedies will inevitably happen.

    As Phil mentionned, it does however, have potential for emergency medical rescue and evacuation from hard to reach or hazardous places. I can also see an application for hazmat and explosives disposal.

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  • Electromagnetic interference is not a hindrance to a well designed navigation system. GPS, LIDAR, and stereoscopic machine vision can’t be ‘jammed’ by cell phone broadcasts and suchlike. Properly built, this could be at least as safe as google car.

    Though I do see noise being a problem. Drones are LOUD as a result of their tiny propellers, and a human sized one isn’t going to be any quieter.

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  • Electromagnetic interference is not a hindrance

    A signal-jamming system to deter unwanted drone flights was unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Developed by Airbus Defence and Space, the Smart Responsive Jamming Technology can disable signals between a drone and its operator or, in some cases, jam its navigation system…available in mid-2016

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  • I feel it my duty to publish my just invented line of site laser control relay/mesh employing multiple drones (£500 a go). £10K would get you a robust and sufficiently remote remote control that defeats jamming.

    If the good guys implement these first defensively as interceptors to supplement jamming….

    The big problem is an autonomous attack drone using topology recognition supplemented from a minute or two old aerial photograph taken from a local private or commercial plane.

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