This new $5,000 electric drone can carry you and your brave friends


As I peruse Alibaba for all sorts of fun and interesting electric vehicles, I often stumble across seemingly outlandish products that often have a real use case behind them. The best of those make it into the recurring Awesome Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column, and that’s precisely where this man-carrying drone lands today.

To be fair, I’m not sure the main purpose of this flying EV is to carry people.

They do advertise it with a few images of a person suspended beneath it to show off the drone’s carrying capacity. And at least one of the photos seems like it’s actually non-recreational as the guy appears to be in the process of accessing a communications tower platform.

I guess for those who don’t want to spend half an hour climbing a ladder to change a light bulb or swap a connector, a drone might be a shortcut to some of these difficult access areas. It could also open up the worker pool for that job to not only people with Popeye’s forearms.

But manned work doesn’t seem like the main use case for a heavy-lift drone like this.

Instead, it appears to me that it’s primarily a work drone designed for utility tasks where you’d want to lift a serious amount of weight in tools or supplies.

The stated 200 kg (440 lb) weight-carrying capacity is quite impressive, especially since the unit only weighs 40 kg (88 lb) by itself. But you’ll want that extra lift potential for a number of its other advertised uses, such as a water sprayer for cleaning tasks or a heavy-lift drone for moving supplies in mountainous or otherwise hard-to-reach areas.

Some companies even seem to use them to clean wind turbine blades.

Interestingly, the drone can either run off of its 16 on-board batteries or can be tethered to an electrical cable for continuous flying. For longer duration jobs like window washing, that’s probably the better way to go.

The batteries only offer 20 minutes of flying time, and replacing 16 batteries with freshly charged units would probably take you another 20 minutes on the ground. That limited battery flight time also means that if you are going to use it to carry workers up onto aerial platforms, you better not take the scenic route.

The drone does come with three parachutes that can automatically deploy if it enters free fall, which makes me feel only marginally better about hanging onto that rope ladder and going for a ride.

The factory also advertises that the controls can be run tethered, so you don’t have to use radio frequency in areas where it might be jammed. That has me a bit worried about what other uses they’re envisioning for a heavy-lift drone like this, but I’ll leave that for another day.

How our resident Photoshop wizard imagines I’d look on one of these things

With an advertised price of US $5,000, it also seems weirdly affordable. I have no idea what the going rate for a man-lift drone is these days, but I probably would have guessed more than that. You can barely buy an electric motorcycle for that much, and those only move in a single plane.

Of course, the catch is that you have to buy two of them, as that’s the minimum order quantity from the seller. So if you’re crazy enough to strap into one of these things, you better find an equally crazy friend for the second one.

And in case it wasn’t yet clear, please don’t actually try to buy one of these from Alibaba. This column is a tongue-in-cheek exercise in exploring just how amazing and interesting the world’s largest EV provider’s catalog of wacky vehicles has become. But I am certainly not encouraging anyone to run the financial and emotional gauntlet of trying to buy something expensive on Alibaba. I’ve been there and done that, and it’s not for the timid.

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