Commute To Work Via Passenger Drone

One of 10 insane ideas that just might save the world

Traffic jams and overcrowded highways don’t fit with any utopian vision of the future. So Derrick Xiong, cofounder of China-based consumer and commercial drone company EHang, had an insight: “The only way out is the sky.” Xiong’s four-armed, single-passenger EHang 184 is the world’s first drone capable of transporting humans. It has many of the comforts of a commercial plane, such as air conditioning and lighting, but with the autonomy of a drone. Passengers use a Microsoft Surface tablet to regulate the amenities, while a command center remotely monitors flights and handles the logistics of air-traffic control.

While it isn’t meant to be a replacement for other methods of air travel, it is intended to relieve the stress on the U.S.’s increasingly problematic transportation infrastructure—a system that could cost as much as​ $3 billion to fix. The EHang’s ability to take off and land vertically, along with the minimal training required for riders, gives it advantages above cars and planes. With a release date that’s still uncertain and a price comparable to a small plane (upwards of $300,000), the EHang won’t be replacing the Prius anytime soon. But gridlock’s days may be numbered.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of Popular Science. Check out other insane ideas that just might save the world.