Some people think autonomous, or self-driving cars are a little too out there. Well, fasten your seatbelt because here comes an autonomous, or self-flying aircraft.
Chinese manufacturer Ehang, which produces unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), otherwise known as drones, has rolled out what it says is the world's first electric, personal Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV).
To put it another way, it's an aircraft that flies itself. The Jetsons is about to become a reality.
The company introduced the fully ready-to-fly AAV at the Consumer Electronics show, upping the ante over carmakers at the show displaying their earth-bound autonomous vehicles.
No pilot's license
According to Ehang, passengers have no need for a pilot's license – they simply sit back and let the drone take over. They get where they are going by entering a destination into the accompanying smartphone app.
Yes, you fly the thing with a smartphone app.
The aircraft is designed for short-to-medium distances and the company believes it holds huge potential, not only for the transportation industry, but also for many other fields such as shipping, medical care, and retail.
"It's been a lifetime goal of mine to make flight faster, easier and more convenient than ever. The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy efficient way," said Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu.
The Ehang 184 derives its name from one passenger, eight propellers, and four arms. The company demonstrates the concept in the video below.
But how safe will it be to strap yourself into a small cabin and go hurtling through the air, trusting a computer to get you back on the ground safely? Some might answer that commercial aviation has now become highly computerized.
The company isn't making that comparison but does stress safety and points out that automated flight eliminates the most dangerous part of standard modes of transportation: human error.
It says the Ehang 184 has built in redundancy for all flight systems. In the unlikely event that a component does fail, it says multiple backups are already in place to seamlessly take over.
Let's say a wayward goose runs into your aircraft, what happens then? Ehang says its independently developed Fail-Safe System ensures that if any components malfunction or are damaged, the aircraft automatically evaluates the damage and determines whether the AAV will need to land to ensure safety.
Flight command center
Ehang is also building a 24-hour flight command center that will be in constant contact with all of its flying vehicles. While the 184 is able to fly during thunderstorms and other extreme weather conditions, the command center can stop the vehicle from taking off as a precaution.
Ehang did not disclose pricing information for when the Ehang 184 will be taking someone to the sky. But someone might want to let the Federal Aviation Adminisration (FAA) know.
It will have the job of regulating these new aircraft and keeping them from running into the one million unmanned drones that were sold in the U.S. over the holidays.