It’s an audacious concept. It says CES has officially jumped the shark. But the people at Ehang, a Guangzhou, China-based drone company, say the Ehang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) is entirely real—however turbulent its legal airspace may be. In a somewhat absurd nutshell, the Ehang 184 AAV is a 142-horsepower “personal flying vehicle” that can transport a single human being from Point A to Point B at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet.
As the company says in its marketing copy, the Ehang 184 aims to provide a “short- to medium-distance transportation solution” and is designed for “average consumers who may have very little experience with piloting any flying objects.”
Let me throw some details at you—and then I invite you to ponder whether this flying machine will ever actually fly in the United States.
Ehang says its 142-horsepower electric motor is good for an average cruising speed of 62 mph. The Ehang 184 has a span of 18 feet when fully unfolded, weighs 440 lbs, and can carry a passenger weighing up to 264 pounds. Its maximum flying altitude is 11,480 feet, and the AAV can fly for as long as 23 minutes at sea level.
And—get this—the Ehang 184 can be controlled entirely through a mobile app. In fact, Ehang says passengers only have to execute two commands: “take off” and “land.” Once you’ve set your course, the Ehang 184 will take off vertically, and use real-time sensor data (and presumably GPS) to keep you on course.
The main structure is made of a composite material, along with carbon fiber and epoxy. In the cabin, there’s one seat, one control pad, air conditioning, and a reading light. On the outside, there are lights on each of the four propellor arms (red at the front, green at the back), flashing airline signal lights, a downward-facing video camera, and a headlight.
And somewhere on the Ehang 184 AAV, there’s a trunk that fits a 16-inch backpack.
The vehicle’s name is a reference to “one passenger, eight propellers, four arms.” If you’re looking for more propellers and more arms—you know, for extra confidence in this thing staying airbone—you may be comforted by Ehang’s promise of redundant safety systems. For starters, the company says the 184 AAV has multiple power systems, so if one breaks down, the drone can still fly. Beyond that, there’s a failsafe should the flight system crap out on you: If anything malfunctions, the 184 AAV will immediately land in the nearest safe area.
Pricing: Unknown, but likely between $200,000 and $300,000 USD, according to Ehang. Availability: Also unknown, especially when it comes to the United States. But you know what’s most unknown? The Ehang 184’s essential legality. This is how the company addresses legal concerns in its explainer: “Because the 184 AAV represents an entirely new category of technology, there are regulations and agencies that are still catching up. We are in uncharted waters, and are working closely with government agencies across the planet to develop and regulate the future of transportation.”