On Wednesday, a little-known Chinese drone manufacturer decided to make a splash at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show.
Shooting for headlines, Guangzhou-based EHang unveiled its EHang 184, a passenger-carrying craft that the company dubbed “the world’s first electric, personal Autonomous Aerial Vehicle.”
“EHang 184 is the safest, smartest and eco-friendly low-altitude, Autonomous Aerial Vehicle aiming on providing medium-short transportation solution[s],” said a narrator on the vehicle’s launch video, which showed a human-sized, egg-shaped capsule with four arms and eight propellers gliding majestically over snowcapped mountains, Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley and the San Francisco skyline.
There was one small issue, however. None of it was real.
“The footage of the drone flying over cities, etc. is computer-generated,” wrote a company spokesperson to FORBES in an email.
While history has no shortage of entrepreneurs who have over-promised on inventions to encourage imagination and build publicity, unrealistic hype has become an all-too-common marketing strategy in the consumer drone industry. Some companies have revealed too much, too soon, sometimes raising money or selling pre-orders on devices that become seriously delayed, or worse, terminated.
In a young industry, it can be dangerous to promise devices that are not readily achievable as that sets unrealistic expectations for products that are unfamiliar to mainstream consumers. “It’s false advertising,” said Drone Analyst Research’s Colin Snow of EHang’s announcement. “Certainly in the short term, it doesn’t help the cause.”