Human-transporting Ehang drone will test-fly in Nevada
The dream of Americans flying inside a drone just moved one step closer.
Ehang 184, the eponymous giant, 500-pound drone first introduced at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, is returning to Nevada for potential test flights, according to The Las Vegas Review Journal.
While the size of a small airplane, the Ehang 184 is truly a drone. Passengers get in the one-seater, enter their destination and the Ehang 184 — essentially a flying robot — does the rest.
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When Mashable spoke to Ehang cofounder and CFO Shang Wen Hsiao earlier this year, he said they were in contact with the FAA, which requires 28 hours of flight time to check air worthiness. These test flights may actually apply to that test-flight time requirement.
Ehang will actually conduct the tests with the state-sponsored Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, a consortium of state government officials and Nevada businesses and educators, which will help Ehang test the systems in preparation for seeking wider FAA approval, The Las Vegas Review Journal noted.
Before Ehang and the NIAS can start conducting these test flights, however, they'll need an FAA experimental certificate to fly the drone. In addition, they'll have to secure FAA approval to carry passengers (if they plan to have someone on-board during the test flights). Even with all that, sources tell us that Ehang will still need numerous FAA exemptions and waivers to fly with the level of automation the company is currently proposing.
If it does all work out, though, this will be the second bit of exciting news for Ehang in recent weeks. Last month, the company announced that it had partnered with Lung Biotechnologyto ferry donated organs between hospitals. The company may buy as many as 1,000 specially designed Ehang 184 drones.
Nevada's decision to allow Ehang to test there is not that surprising, considering its forward-leaning-stance on transportation technology. It recently hosted the very first test of a portion of the Hyperloop One sub-supersonic transportation system.