Think Amazon delivery drones are a radical idea? A Chinese startup called Ehang has used the same technology to build an aircraft to carry a passenger more than 20 miles.
The EHang 184 AAV is a one-person pod lifted by eight rotors mounted in pairs on four folding arms -- thus the number 184. Announced Wednesday at the CES tech show in Las Vegas, the battery-powered aircraft will carry a passenger for 23 minutes at about 60 miles per hour.
For decades, people have dreamed of soaring over traffic jams with jetpacks, flying cars and other personal aircraft. EHang's 184 AAV is joining company like the Icon A5 and Terrafugia flying car that aim to make that personal aviation dream a reality despite difficulties with cost, safety, engineering and regulations.
"The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy efficient way," said EHang Chief Executive Huazhi Hu in a statement. And though it's initially aimed at commuters and adventuresome people, "EHang will make a global impact across dozens of industries beyond personal travel," he said.
But EHang's ambition will have to reckon with sharp regulatory limits.