Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Do you yawn at the suggestion of bungee diving? Bored by the prospect of kayaking and couldn’t care less about performing some laps in the latest race car? No problem: Very soon you’ll be able to get your weekend thrill fix by taking a giant 18-rotor rideable drone out (or, more appropriately, up) for a spin.

Created by the startup Lift Aircraft, the “Hexa” ultralight aerial vehicle is gearing up to offer customers 10- to 15-minute flights over scenic landscapes in 25 cities around the U.S. While that might sound like it’s still years off, the company hopes to offer its first location as soon as next year. The $ 150 to $ 200 price tag doesn’t sound too prohibitive, either.

“We’re creating the first ever truly consumer flying experience, where anyone that is interested in experiencing the thrill of flying can give it a try in a safe, controlled environment,” Matt Chasen, CEO of Lift Aircraft, told Digital Trends. “Starting in 2019 — based on our waitlist demand — we will open up Lift locations in scenic, uncontested areas near major metros in the U.S.”

Customers hoping to use the service are not required by law to get a pilot’s license. Instead, they will undertake an orientation program and watch a safety video before carrying out up to one hour of virtual reality training to get familiar with the drone’s control system.

The Hexa drone is piloted using a joystick and touchscreen display. The flight itself is limited to certain geofenced, uncontested areas, which Chasen said will often take place over water. While you will have control of the drone, two remote safety pilots will be monitoring each flight, in addition to an onboard computer helping to keep the drone stable. Long-term, the plan is to allow racing around augmented reality courses, virtual dogfights, and more.

“We believe the aspiration to fly is wired into the human brain, so don’t believe [this is] a novelty,” Chasen continued. “We want to deliver a safe, simple flying experience so that anyone can experience the thrill and magic of flying. We think that the experiential entertainment opportunity for Lift is enormous. We do believe that eVTOL (Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) aircraft can and will inevitably be used for transportation — and we plan to develop a certified aircraft as soon as the regulatory agencies have developed a basis and means for compliance.”

Of course, Lift isn’t the only company interested in bringing human-sized drones to market. However, many others are initially focused on taxi-style transportation, thereby potentially lengthening the amount of time it will take for them to get the official go-ahead as businesses. Lift, on the other hand, is targeting mid-to-late 2019 for its launch.

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Emerging Tech – Digital Trends

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