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China to get world’s first passenger drone hotel

For more than a half century, much of the urban experience has been built around the needs and capabilities of automobiles. Now China is experimenting with a framework built around air taxis to create the world’s first drone hotel.

Chinese drone maker EHang is collaborating with hotel developer LN Holdings to create the world’s first passenger drone hotel. What does that mean? Air taxis will be an integral part of the hotel experience. They will offer transportation to and from the hotel as well as opportunities for scenic excursions. Drones will also make deliveries to the hotel. And drone light shows will be on the entertainment roster for guests.

Flying taxis may sound like science fiction, but EHang has come perhaps farther than anyone to make them a reality. The company has scaled up drone designs to produce a full autonomous passenger craft, the EHang 216 AAV. It’s essentially an octocopter with a two-passenger compartment on top. Unlike most other air taxi makers that include a pilot, the 216 AAV is designed from the start to be fully autonomous. EHang has already delivered dozens of its passenger drones to customers in Asia, Europe, and North America.

The first drone hotel

The hotel effort will begin by retrofitting one of LN’s existing sites, the LN Garden Hotel, to offer drone services. The hotel is in Nansha, a costal district in the city of Guangzhou. And it will offer air excursions to sites such as Canton Tower, Beijing Road, and the Pearl River. The choice of Guangzhou is no coincidence. In 2019, EHang and the city government entered an agreement to make Guangzhou the so-called first urban air mobility pilot city.

What do you think about air taxis? Will autonomous drones ever be safe and reliable enough to transport people. And would you book a stay at a hotel based on the fact that it specializes in drone entertainment?



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Sean Captain is a Bay Area technology, science, and policy journalist. Follow him on Twitter @SeanCaptain.