One of the reasons we launched DroneTrader was to not only provide a listing service for used UAVs but to also one day have a platform ready where people can go to list their used manned passenger drones.
We feel that the future of drones is not just for taking great aerial photos and gathering data. It’s also finally giving us the “flying cars” that humankind has been talking about for so many years.
If you ask us, personal transportation by your own personal unmanned aircraft can’t come soon enough! Imagine your daily commute with no more traffic jams, no traffic lights, no construction delays…
It wasn’t that long ago that this was the stuff of dreams.
Over the past decade there have been multiple companies designing and building personal unmanned aircraft. Some show great potential, and many are targeting prices of only around $200,000!
Many are also well into testing with real humans on board. Exciting stuff!
Here is our list of the 10 best passenger drones and drone taxis (updated September 2018).
The Workhorse Surefly first made its debut back in 2017 and since then has garnered significant international attention. Almost all of the passenger drones on this list use electric power to generate lift. The Workhorse Surefly is unique in that it uses both a gasoline generator and electric battery packs as backups should the generator fail.
With a strong focus on safety, the Surefly uses 8 propellers for flight, all independently powered. Built in algorithms allow it to fly with as few as four propellers. Deploying a ballistic parachute is also a possibility in case of an emergency.
Early on the scene, the eHang 184 was one of the first drones built for human transportation. It is one of the few companies that has already tested extensively with human passengers (over 1000 test flights!). It is also one of the most compact passenger drones we’ve covered here.
Similar to the Surefly, it uses 8 propellers and it can travel about 10 miles in a single flight. Unlike some of the others on this list, the flight can be completely hands off with no pilot input. Ehang has extensive experience in building consumer UAV flight programs and uses similar algorithms to control their autonomous passenger aircraft.
Ehang is also looking to provide a drone taxi service to alleviate traffic congestion and speed up morning commutes.
Founded by Google co-founder Larry Page, the Kittyhawk Flyer is more of a personal flying car than a fully autonomous passenger drone. It is fully electric and has about a 20 minute flight time. No less than 10 large fans power this drone. Specialty software helps to smooth control inputs and stabilize the flight.
Due to fitting inside the FAA ultralight regulations, the Flyer will be much more accessible to the public than other drones once they’re available.
An offshoot of the Kittyhawk Flyer above, the Cora was designed strictly as an air taxi. It uses 12 propellers for the VTOL portion of its flight. For forward flight, it uses a pair of high lift wings and a rearward facing thruster.
It recently received backing from the New Zealand government which is looking to rapidly decrease emissions over the next years via electric transportation. New Zealand was also one of the only places in the world that was willing to work with Kittyhawk in terms of the regulatory hurdles that were keeping it grounded in the USA.
The UAV is completely self-piloting.
The German engineered and built Volocopter probably looks the most like a traditional helicopter. It has all of its propellers mounted at the top of the airframe. The Volocopter uses no less than 18 propellers to power its flight. Also, it is one of the few to use fiber optic cables for its communication networks.
The Volocopter 2X is one of the few passenger drones that holds a parachute in case of an emergency. It uses a single joystick for flight control and is ready for complete autonomous human flight once the regulations do finally catch up to allow it.
The Volocopter recently completed the first flights over Dubai, which is pushing to have the first fully functioning drone taxi system in the world.
Having already disrupted the taxi industry in a big way, Uber shows no signs of stopping with their recent initiative, Uber Elevate. They call Uber Elevate an “on-demand aviation” service, similar to what they currently offer in the world of automobiles, but for the air.
The company envisions a world where a VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) autonomous taxis will show up at the nearest VTOL landing pad after travellers request one via an app.
They feel that with enough volume, VTOL will become just as affordable as regular transport via automobile and will greatly increase quality of life for those with long daily commutes.
Uber has lofty goals but also has the capital to back them up. They are aware of any potential regulatory, engineering, and safety concerns and are working hard to address them. We are excited for the time when their aerial taxis go mainstream (great whitepaper writeup here)!
Airbus has many decades of experience in the aviation industry. With their vast reserves of capital and engineering prowess, we expect that their passenger drone will be nothing short of a success.
The maiden flight of the aircraft lasted 53 seconds and hovered just 16 feet from the ground. Zero human input required!
The Lilium Jet is arguably one of the best looking passenger drones on the list. It is completely electric and boasts a 300km range and a 300km/hr top speed. Like Uber, this company is looking to provide on-demand air taxi service that you would simply request from an app.
The company claims the Lilium Jet will travel 70km in 15 minutes. This would be a fantastic option for commuters looking to speed up a tedious commute! They expect the general public to be able to book a Lilium Jet by the early 2020s.
When launched, this drone was simply titled “Passenger Drone”; it was recently purchased by Astro Aerospace and the project has since been called “Elroy”. This manned drone is constructed completely of carbon fiber and has a strong focus on passenger comfort.
Their TouchFlight system allows for passengers to fly the drone autonomously or manually. The 16 rotors allow for redundancy should a motor fail mid-flight.
They recently hired Paul Beard, CEO of www.uavionix.com to head their development team. Recently they were approved for flights in Canada by Transport Canada, an exciting step for manned passenger drone flights!
The Cormorant is unique in that it targets the emergency and first responder market. They have built a passenger drone that will allow for rapid access to disaster areas and the extrication of casualties.
The drone can deliver up to 500 kg of cargo or equipment. Remotely operated control arms for specialty missions make this manned drone one-of-a-kind. Ducted fan-style motors allow for increased safety when flying in hazardous or crowded conditions.
Like some of the other drones listed here, the Cormorant has an integrated parachute system that safely lowers the drone & payload in case of powertrain failure.
I’ll be first in line to try out a passenger drone when they are available to the general public! What about you?