A human-carrying drone has been given approval for test flights in Nevada, the first of its kind in the United States. The autonomous drone – dubbed 184 – can carry one passenger and was developed by Chinese company EHang.
A prototype was shown off at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with the company hoping to sell the drones later this year. Experts were divided over whether such a system would have mass appeal.
Officials from the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems granted permission for the drone to be tested and offered to help EHang submit the results to the Federal Aviation Administration in a bid to win further approval. It is not clear whether the drone will carry a passenger during tests.
“I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system,” the institute’s business development director, Mark Barker,told local the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The prototype drone is over 4ft (1.2m) tall, weighs 440lb (200kg) and has eight propellers. It can carry a single passenger for 23 minutes at 60mph (96km/h). Passengers enter their destination on a 12in (30cm) touchscreen in front of their seat, and the drone’s on-board computer works out the best route.
There is no passenger over-ride function, meaning the user cannot take control in an emergency. In the event of a malfunction, the drone would land in the nearest available area. It is likely to sell for between £140,000 ($200,000) and £200,000. Edited from BBC