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It's strange to think that drones were regarded by many legal naysayers as mere annoyances a couple of year ago. Pretty soon, they said, these things would go the way of the Macarena and would fade away from relevance.
Boy, did they call that one wrong. Now drones are getting so prolific that federal and local laws have been enacted just to track them. They're peeking into our homes, helping us conduct war, may deliver our packages, and now a manned Unmanned Aerial System may be flying you to work.
Ehang, a drone company that's based in Guangzhou, China is testing the planet's very first passenger carrying drone (dubbed the 184) in Nevada this year. The model was first unveiled to the world in January 2016 at CES and had nerds salivating from both corners of their mouths. The numbers aren't amazingly impressive, but neither were hybrid vehicles when they first came out. The mere fact that a proof of concept got this far is a feather in the cap for the Chinese firm.
Ehang partnered up with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, a governmental agency that will help the company develop its flying system. "Autonomous" is hardly an accident as this thing will be piloted by app. No joystick necessary: just sit back and enjoy the view.
For 23 minutes, anyway. We mentioned that the numbers were not all that terrific -- but we know that this will improve with further advances.
And of course, there are the legal hurdles. Ehang and NIAS have to prove to the FAA that the 184 is airworthy and won't fall out of the sky like a brick. Right now, the 184 is on site to prove its mettle at the FAA's unmanned aircraft systems test site in Nevada. But even then, it'll probably be years before we see ourselves in this personal quad-copter. It looks pretty darn awesome, though.
In the meantime, carry a parachute and make sure your life insurance doesn't have "model 184" exclusions.
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