Without any doubt, passenger drones have set to change the way humans transport themselves forever. Seriously, this is one welcome idea, considering the number of cars that ply our roads every day. The human population continues to explode and the roads really wouldn’t be able to handle it for long. They are already super-choked.
And it is not exactly like we didn’t see it coming – just watch any futuristic film and you would agree that it is inevitable. Man would taxi in the air! Maybe one day, there would be more taxis in the air than on the road. Maybe, maybe not. No one really knows.
For a long time, several companies have been working on building their own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for years. Before then, we’ve seen a lot of radio controlled model airplanes among hobbyists. This was as far back as 1970's.
It was only in the 2000's that we started seeing electric-powered drones. It was only a matter of time before we start considering adopting them for humans, isn’t it? Of course, we wouldn’t count the personal jetpacks of the 1960s, the Aeromobil flying car concept of the 1990s, or the Terrafugia flying vehicle concept of 2006.
One major flaw in the design is that they are all manually controlled by a pilot. Not exactly what you would call a drone. It was a good try, but not quite what we are talking about here.
In case you don’t know what passenger drones are, just picture a flying taxi that requires no pilot onboard with you. Instead, it is remotely driven by a human operator. In fact, scratch that. What if it is driven by onboard computers, just like the driverless cars? All you have to do is specify where you want to be taken. That’s all. Just relax and enjoy the ride. Now, that’s what we’re talking about.
In 2016, Chinese entrepreneurs from the company Ehang shocked everyone when they presented their "184" Personal Flying Vehicle (PFV) at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016. The problem is that it really didn’t carry any passenger. It was exciting to see, but it didn’t answer those scary questions.
One thing on the mind of a lot of people is, “Can it really transport humans safely?”
What no one prepared us for is the company aptly named Passenger Drone. For 3 years, they worked silently, arousing no one’s suspicion as they worked on their prototype. Late in September of 2017, Passenger Drone was introduced to the world in a manned flight right from its first prototype. Yes, the first prototype shown to the world had a human on it!
But Passenger Drone was not the only one showing off to us mortals. Just earlier that month, competitor Volocopter set their drone on a maiden test flight carrying no other person than the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.
As we already know, Dubai loves making strong statements in the trends they set, even in the design of the city. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed made sure it happened in Dubai first.
With a flight that took just around 5 minutes, the Crown Prince was taken some 200 meters above the ground, clearly demonstrating how dedicated Dubai is to fulfilling the promise of being the first to offer a flying taxi service in the world.
But, while Dubai may have the claim to being the first city that actually flies a human in this, there are others making their moves as well. One of them is Nevada. Nevada officials are also seeking the FAA’s approval. If the approval goes through, we should be expecting it soon in America too.
We are expecting the first commercial production in the next 5 years. The emphasis here is on the word, “expecting”. No one really knows. Innovations like this require a lot of planning and testing. No mistake must be allowed.
We are clearly at the dawn of a revolution in the way humans commute. What many fear is how safe it would be. The companies also know this and are putting everything into consideration.
Take Volocopter, for example. Even though the current model is assisted by the GPS technology, it wouldn’t be enough when we have more passenger drones flying all over the sky. To make things safer in the future, the company is planning on implementing what it calls “full sense capabilities”. What this would do is help the drone avoid crashing into obstacles or colliding with other flying drones in the sky.
The Passenger Drone, on the other hand, can be controlled in three ways: autonomously by the drone itself, remotely by an operator via secure LTE (4G) network, or manually by you. In case, you can’t trust the machine, the control is returned to you.
No, you don’t have to be a certified pilot. It was built to be both sleek and simple. A lot goes into these things. High-end technologies like Field Oriented Motor Control, Adaptive Flight Control, Encrypted Communication Channels, Fiber Optic Internal Communications are what make this drone such a remarkable machine.
This machine’s full body is made from carbon fiber, one of the lightest and most durable materials you could ever find. Add that to the fact that it is lifted by 16 rotors that make no noise. There is no emission, either. What you get is an easy glide. As if this is not enough, the company went on to say there are plans to build 5 more prototypes that would log another 1000 hours before they are considered fit for commercial production and use.
How long would it take? No one really knows, but we are edging really closer.
Image credit: http://passengerdrone.com/
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