Self-Flying Drone Could Be First Air Taxi

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Remember at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), when the Chinese company Ehang both excited and scared the crap out of everyone with its model for a self-flying, car-sized drone?

Well, sit tight, because the company announced that it has signed an agreement with the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems to begin testing its unmanned aircraft.

You may recall that the four-rotor drone is designed to carry a single passenger weighing up to 260 pounds, and is capable of cruising for 23 minutes at an average of 62 mph. The vehicle also pairs with an app that allows passengers to enter in their destination, before being ferried at a height of 650 feet, like an aerial taxi cab.

“Ehang’s selection of Nevada to test its people-carrying drone marks a thrilling addition to the innovative companies testing throughout our state to advance the commercial drone industry,” Tom Wilczek, a leading policy expert at the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, expressed in a press release. “I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system.”

Initial concerns regarding the concept model presented at CES included the glaring lack of internal manual flight controls, meaning that if anything went wrong mid-flight, passengers would be shit out of luck. Furthermore, an unmanned car-sized drone poses considerable issues for FAA regulations.

The “historic” partnership aims to help Ehang to work out these more obvious shortcomings in pursuit of regulatory approval. While no specific dates have been provided, Ehang is slated to begin site testing within several months.