CEO takes ride in passenger drone to demonstrate that it’s safe

The idea of an autonomous flying taxi may sound terrifying to some, but for Chinese outfit EHang, the dream of creating a small aerial vehicle for transporting people at speed across cities is fast becoming a reality.

The simply named “184” first appeared at CES in Vegas just over two years ago, and in recent days the company released a video showing one of its latest manned test flights. And no, it didn’t crash.

Looking something like a giant quadcopter, the 184 lets you climb inside, press a destination on the control panel, and … well, that’s it. You don’t need any pilot training to take a trip in the 184, instead you just let its autonomous technology take care of everything.

To show just how much faith he has in his passenger drone, EHang CEO Huazhi Hu recently climbed inside for a test flight, shown in the video above.

He certainly seems happy enough as the 184 zips along, even if his team back on the ground look a tiny bit anxious. And just like the best consumer drones, the personal transporter looks steady and stable in the air.

The video actually shows two different designs of the 184. The first appears to be the original version, with one seat and eight sets of rotors on four arms (yes, that’s how it got its name). The second is the most recent design is a slightly larger with two seats and 16 sets of rotors on eight arms, though EHang appears to be shying away from calling it the 2168 — a wise move considering how long it takes to say.

The Guangzhou-based company says it has now conducted more than 1,000 test flights, with some consisting of a 984-foot (300-meter) vertical climb while carrying a load of up to 507 pounds (230 kg). Flights have traveled as far as 9.3 miles (15 km), with the aircraft reaching speeds of up to 80.7 mph (130 kph). Its maker boasts that it can even handle force-7 typhoon conditions, though in conditions like that we’ll probably hop in a taxi to get across town.

“Performing manned test flights enables us to demonstrate the safety and stability of our vehicles,” Hu said in a release. “Now that we’ve successfully tested the EHang 184, I’m really excited to see what the future holds for us in terms of air mobility.”

The 184 has plenty of competition, though. Only a few days ago we saw the first test flight of the Airbus-backed Vahana self-piloting air taxi, and Uber is developing its own machine. Joby Aviation and Volocopter also have their own vehicles in the works, and we recently learned about the aptly named “Passenger Drone.”

Personal flying machines certainly seem to capture our imagination, as these wackier designs — a flying car that is basically a car with wings attached, a flying bathtub that is exactly what it says it is, and a hobbyist’s extraordinary 72-rotor machine — appear to prove.

Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Cars

Uber is about to restart self-driving car tests but on a reduced scale

Uber is reported to be on the verge of restarting its autonomous-car test program. The company halted it in March 2018 following a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles, but its cars could be back on the road within weeks.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s ‘Wing’ delivery drones are on their way to Europe

Google-parent Alphabet is taking its "Wing" drone delivery project to Helsinki in Finland. The move follows 18 months of trials in Australia, and gives the team the chance to test its technology in a harsh winter climate.
Emerging Tech

Early-detection system for wildfires could save many states from big burns

When it comes to dealing with the growing problem of raging wildfires, a new wireless smart sensor system could help spot burgeoning blazes before they rage out of control. Here's how it works.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk to unveil tunnel elevators and autonomous pods on December 18

We'll soon learn if Elon Musk's high-speed tunnel plan is a serious effort at ending traffic jams or little more than a fancy theme park ride. A big unveiling event is coming on December 18, a week later than originally planned.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!