Ehang says its 142-horsepower electric motor is good for an average cruising speed of 62 mph. The Ehang 184 has a span of 18 feet when fully unfolded, weighs 440 lbs, and can carry a passenger weighing up to 264 pounds. Its maximum flying altitude is 11,480 feet, and the AAV can fly for as long as 23 minutes at sea level.Based on those numbers quoted in the first paragraph, I'd say its practical range would be on the order of 15 miles. While it's tempting to say 23 miles is over a third of an hour, and with a speed of 62 mph, a third of an hour at 62 is over 20 miles each way, that leaves no contingency for needing extra power for anything, like accelerating to 62 for example. Perhaps a lighter person could stretch that out farther.
And—get this—the Ehang 184 can be controlled entirely through a mobile app. In fact, Ehang says passengers only have to execute two commands: “take off” and “land.” Once you’ve set your course, the Ehang 184 will take off vertically, and use real-time sensor data (and presumably GPS) to keep you on course.
The company itself, Ehang, is based in Guangzhou, China, and they see it the way the original hype on the Segway came across; "it's going to change everything!" They envision it as changing commuting and transportation around the world. Well maybe, in dense cities where commutes may be under that 15 mile limit. It's not available yet, and this is where the troubles start. Its service altitude means it can fly in controlled air space, and you really don't want to spend a lot of time at its 11,480 foot ceiling if you don't have oxygen available. Legally, this puts it in danger of needing to be certified like any other small, privately owned aircraft. Aside from having four struts carrying props, making it look more like a toy drone, how is it different from a small helicopter? The FAA recognizes a class of experimental aircraft called ultralight, but the requirements say that the maximum empty weight has to be under 254 lbs; a far cry from that 440 lbs. cited above.
That makes it sound like any other private aircraft to me, and I don't know that it meets the other requirements for a helicopter. I see what looks to be a headlight, and the video at that PCWorld link seems to show the other required lights small aircraft are required to have. What about a radio for communicating with the ground or other aircraft? Aircraft that fly in controlled air space need to be equipped with a transponder, and other equipment. None of that gets mentioned. As with anything else in the extremely regulated world of aviation, the questions have little to do with the actual airframe and almost entirely come down to legal matters. The company issued a statement saying:
“Because the 184 AAV represents an entirely new category of technology, there are regulations and agencies that are still catching up. We are in uncharted waters, and are working closely with government agencies across the planet to develop and regulate the future of transportation.”Price is estimated at around a quarter of a million dollars; 200 to $300,000, potentially available later in the year. I don't think I'll hold my breath on this one, but it's as close to the Jetsons' flying cars that I see out there.