efe-epaDongguan, China

Inspired by a cartoon he watched as a child, Zhao Deli sold off his apartment in pursuit of his dream of building a flying scooter.

The inventor from Dongguan in southern China has invested heavily in his project, which so far has yielded just a test sample - the vehicle’s outer shell still needs to be finished.

By next year, he hopes to complete the project and send it out for mass production.

Customers will have to shell out between 38,000 and 50,000 RMB ($5,500-7,200) for the flying contraptions, and Zhao hopes to one day make the product available for sale overseas as well.

The inventor sees several applications for his flying scooter, from local delivery companies to technical maintenance of various systems, as well as construction.

Zhao also believes the scooter could be used for police and military surveillance; it can be easily customized to carry various types of weapons and other necessary equipment.

When asked if anyone from the military had contacted him for possible cooperation, he said "I can't discuss that right now."

As well as use by officials or security forces, Zhao thinks that the manned drone could prove to be an effective solution to transport congestion, and he predicts an air traffic boom across large cities within 20 years. He also said he expects the Chinese government to pass regulations defining the use of manned drones in urbanized areas.

While testing his device Zhao has flown it to a height of 15 meters (50 feet), although he claims it is capable of soaring to 1,000 meters.

He hopes to soon be able to upgrade the drone’s battery, which would allow it to fly in a straight line for two hours, as opposed to its current flight capability of 30 minutes.

The machine can carry one person, and flies at a top speed of around 70 km/h (43 mph), with a maximum payload of about 100 kg (220 pounds).

ap/ks/btm