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Passenger-Carrying Drone Gets Symbolic Approval For Test Flights In Nevada (theverge.com) 59

kheldan writes:

The Verge reports: "Chinese company Ehang caught our eye at CES earlier year, with the firm unveiling an autonomous quadcopter prototype it said was capable of ferrying human passengers without a pilot. We were wary of these unproven claims, but Ehang is obviously forging ahead with the vehicle. The company recently reached an agreement with Nevada's governor's office to develop the Ehang 184 at the state's FAA-approved UAV test site. However, this news should be taken with a pinch of salt: the Ehang 184 still isn't approved for testing by the FAA itself, and the company has yet to show a fully working prototype." Submitter kheldan adds this commentary: This should put you drone advocates' and self-driving car advocates' faith in your ideals to the test: Would you step into one of these and let it fly you away somewhere? I wouldn't!

Ehang says it plans to begin testing at the FAA-approved site some time later this year. Some of the difficulties it will have to face include creating an autonomous navigation system that can detect small obstacles like power lines, creating and regulating fixed paths for air travel, and managing the limitations of battery life (Ehang claims the 184 has a maximum flight time of 23 minutes).


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Passenger-Carrying Drone Gets Symbolic Approval For Test Flights In Nevada

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  • If it can support my weight (350 pounds) and has good flight/battery time, I'll get one.
  • "capable of terrifying passengers without a pilot"

  • ...and animated video is the only thing this company has ever shown. Have they even every flown one for real?

    PS.. Anyone else see a problem with the lower prop locations or are they disposables?

    • All props are consumable items and eventually become wall art.

      Those look like they were bought out of the giant scale RC plane market.

      At least they have six, gives the computer a chance at a controlled crash landing if one fails. Of course the passenger is sitting more or less in rotating plane, so good broken prop catching fun potential.

  • Parachute (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xbytor ( 215790 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 @05:45PM (#52277963) Homepage

    I think this would be a good use-case for an airframe parachute http://cirrusaircraft.com/innovation/airframe-parachute/ [cirrusaircraft.com].

  • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 @05:52PM (#52278009)

    This should put you drone advocates' and self-driving car advocates' faith in your ideals to the test: Would you step into one of these and let it fly you away somewhere? I wouldn't!

    Sure, I'd be happy to, once it has actually been developed and the kinks worked out.

    This is a totally solvable problem, it just requires time and money.

    I've been flying for 15 years, the computer is a better pilot than a human is, in terms of control. Then it just becomes decision making ability. That needs to be worked on, but for fixed flights from point A to point B, known locations, that is totally doable.

    As for "emergencies", yes they happen, but the reality is, not actually that often. For example, the number of pilots who have real engine failures in helicopters is actually lower than the number of injuries and deaths from training for them.

    Frank Robinson (of Robinson Helicopters) actually proposed to the FAA that auto-rotation practice be stopped, because so many people were getting hurt doing it in his R22 compared to the few that actually had an engine quit.

  • What's the difference between a drone and a plane on autopilot?
    • Drones are evil, autopilot is good.

      Except in cars. In cars, autopilot is evil.

    • An autopilot is a relatively straightforward and simple system. It has a small handful of fixed modes and is programmed, adjusted and continuously monitored by a human pilot in flight. If an autopilot starts messing things up (and this happens more often than you'd think), the human pilot takes over and stabilizes things. If an emergency occurs, the human takes over. If a helicopter loses its engine, the pilot judges a safe landing spot and executes an autorotation landing. An autonomous drone is way past t
        • FMS != A/P. They do different tasks.
          • Yes, the FMS does things like navigate, handle emergencies, flight planning, airports, runways, monitor fuel consumption and energy, tells the AP where to go.
            • The FMS doesn't navigate, it assists pilots in navigating. Yeah, it's cute while flying on the pretty magenta line, but if you've ever flown in real life, you'd know that things rarely go exactly according to plan each time. Diversions, directs, holdings, offsets, vectors, changes in approaches, go-arounds, terrain avoidance, all ultimately end up as decisions by pilots. The FMS is a helpful automation tool, but it's a tool for the pilots. It is in no sense autonomous.
              And give me a break on "handle emergen
  • ...more ideas to steal/circumvent (from other companies testing drones there) and re-produce back at home (in China). *PROFIT*

  • whirlybirds can't safely descend vertically at speed, the rotors enter their own downwash and you end up in a Vortex Ring State https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] this is how real helicopters crash and drones too. You can put a drone into that state fairly easily on a still day, just drop fast in one spot, then apply power and note you are still dropping under full power for quite a long way until you apply some tilt or just manage to stop when you get near the ground. If they don't understand the dynamics o

  • When we said we wanted flying cars, this is not exactly what we meant!
  • 1. Little wizzy blades are not efficient. Helicopters are more efficient, and fixed wing aircraft are even more efficient.
    2. 23 minute flight time, but what is the recharge time? Certainly longer than getting another victim^H^H^H^H^H^Hpassenger in.
    3. What is plan B when something goes wrong. I've flown quads, and sometimes the processor does something unplanned.
    4. wizzy blades near the ground, how long before someone gets hurt by these blades?
    5. Prototype aircraft usually gain 20-100% weight by the time all

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