This $40,000 Alibaba drone can carry a passenger, but would you risk it?

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When I first got into flying quadcopters (back when they were still called quadcopters), I would sometimes imagine what it would be like to shrink myself down Rick Moranis-style and hop aboard. But now thanks to some enterprising Chinese engineers – or perhaps garage tinkerers – I don’t have to imagine it anymore. Instead of shrinking the passengers down, they’ve scaled up the entire drone and added a pilot’s chair.

Now the only question is, how brave are you?

Most of the fun electric vehicles I find for the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column seem largely harmless. Most are lumbering and underpowered, with the biggest danger likely being getting cut on an unfinished corner somewhere.

But this is one of the few times where I might not actually volunteer to hop on one of these vehicles myself, mostly out of a healthy sense of self-preservation.

There’s just something about getting into a mail-order aircraft that has “nope” written all over it for me. But if you’re willing to give it a try and you weigh under 100 kg or 220 lb (including your apparently massive coin purse, and I’m not talking about your wallet), then for a mere $39,000 you could have one of these on the way from China.

Or at least, you could have one out the door of the factory. However much extra it costs to ship, insure, receive in the port, clear customs – if that’s even possible, plus brokers fees and local trucking, well that’s all on you as well.

This isn’t the first man-carrying drone we’ve seen in this column. We’ve even gotten a bit creative to get a person up in the air under a drone. But the way the model is hanging onto this drone’s frame for dear life before it’s even left the ground, well that has me an extra bit worried.

The pilotable drone (is it a drone if there’s a pilot in it?) claims an operating ceiling of 120 meters or around 400 feet. I’m not sure why it couldn’t go higher, as it seems like once you’re counting your altitude with triple digits, you’ve basically maxed out the risk already.

Climbing speed is decently quick too, at around 1-2 m/s, meaning you could hit that max altitude in just a minute or two.

The operating speed is a bit faster, clocking in at 10 m/s, or around 22 mph.

Somewhat comically, the only control method is via remote control. That means either you could carry the controller with you and fly like you’re in a video game, or you could let a friend on the ground zip you around. For the latter, I’m not sure what the maximum range of the remote control is, but I suggest you treat that figure with the utmost respect.

I’m also not sure how you’d go about reconnecting that signal on the way down, though I guess you’d have the rest of your life to figure it out.

I wish we had a bit more info on the technical specs. We know it runs on 24s (roughly 88V) lipo batteries, which are the standard chemistry in the RC industry, though are also the most likely to end in a blaze of glory. But we don’t have any info on the motors or controllers.

The limited spec sheet does inform us that the entire thing weighs 220 kg (485 lb), which is frankly more than I was expecting.

Other than a max flight time of 30 minutes, which is around 29 and a half minutes more than I’d care to spend in the thing, the rest of the device is largely a mystery.

So, while it’s kind of awesome that something like this exists, let me end with my typical disclaimer to please don’t buy this. I’m not even sure it’s legal in most areas, let alone all the questions about safety.

There are better ways to blow $40k, like with 40 awesome Chinese electric boats.

Let’s leave these kinds of gravity-defying contraptions where they belong, which is the magical place known as Alibaba’s catalog of weird and awesome EVs.

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