Is the world of autonomous single-passenger drones just over the horizon? Will you be commuting like George Jetson next year? Today, a Chinese company called EHang made a splashy announcement at CES promising just that. But consider us skeptical.
The company says its 440-pound pilotless vehicle, called the 184, will hit the market at some unspecified date in the near future. The estimated cost? Anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000.
“After we launch it at CES, the goal is to do the commercialization within three to four months,” EHang CFO Shang Hsaio told Wired. The definition of “commercialization” is never made clear, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.
All EHang needs now is FAA approval, a vast network of air-traffic control monitors, and a way to figure out how to make the thing land safely after just 23 minutes in the air. Oh, we didn’t mention that? Yeah, its battery lasts a rather humble 23 minutes, or about 10 miles. For a bit of perspective, that wouldn’t even get you halfway from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Also, the drone doesn’t have any manual controls, so if the thing fails mid-flight it seems you’re out of luck. (To extend our LA example, you’d be crashing somewhere around Culver City.)