First Passenger Drone Receives Permission for Flight Test

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( — June 14, 2016) — In January this year, Chinese firm Ehang presented a prototype of their Ehang 184 passenger drone at the CES 2016 fair in Las Vegas, and have now teamed up with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (Goed) to put the drone through testing and regulatory approval, reports the Guardian.

Ehang hopes to start testing the passenger drone this year. Before passengers begin using the drones, the Chinese company will have to prove to the US Federal Aviation Authority that the drones are safe to fly.

Over the last five years, Nevada has become a testing ground for advanced means of transportation. It is one of the first states to allow test driving a car without a driver on public roads.

The Chinese company, based in the southern Chinese province of Guangzhou, already produces drones for hobbyists, especially for photography enthusiasts, but its passenger drone could be the first of its kind. The drone can transport people by air in the same way Google’s self-driving car can drive on the road – with no one behind the wheel.

The idea is that a traveler can simply enter a destination on the screen and the drone will do everything else, from navigating to communicating with flight control.

The drone will fly vertically, like a helicopter, and can reach altitudes of up to two miles, with speeds of up to 60miles per hour, using eight propellers on four arms. Currently, the maximum flight time is 23 minutes.

However, since fully autonomous road vehicles will probably not be widely available until the middle of the next decade, commuters should not expect to jump into a flying autonomous taxi drone for some time.

Tom Wilczek, Aerospace and Defense Industry Specialist for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, is optimistic and hopes for the best, adding that he is looking forward to the day when drones will be a part of Nevada’s transportation system.

These drones can have a variety of uses. A biotech company was delighted with the presentation of the taxi drone at the CES 2016 in Las Vegas, and announced a collaboration with Ehang to adapt the vehicle to transport human organs for transplantation.