Officials in the western state of Nevada revealed recently that the state had granted permission to a Chinese company, Ehang, to begin testing a drone that carries a human passenger. The tests may begin as early as this year.
Ehang displayed a model of the new drone on the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas recently. The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (“NIAS”) expects to carry out the testing.
Described as a “human mover” that functions remotely, the machine resembles a metal and plexiglass capsule with three extended feet and eight propellers. It carries up to 100 kilograms of combined passenger and cargo weight, remaining in the air for some 23 minutes at a speed up to 60 mph.
The FAA has not yet given its approval for the testing. Additionally, Ehang reportedly has failed to furnish a complete working prototype so far. The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development suggested in a public statement that Nevada should help assist the Chinese manufacturer through the complicated regulatory process.
Several issues likely to become important during the testing phase according to experts include battery lifespan, theoretical flight dynamics processes and demonstrating that the new drone can maneuver safely around any overhanging utility lines. Nevertheless, Mark Barket, the NIAS director of business development speculated that the drone might someday function as an airborne taxi in the transportation system. The machine reportedly at the present time lacks any technology enabling operator’s to take charge of the controls manually during emergencies.