Dubai Tests Flying Taxi Drone For Future Ride-Hailing Service

Wednesday, 27 Sep, 2017

Mattar Al Tayer, the director-general of the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA), tried to reassure anyone nervous at the thought of trusting their life to a small, fast, electrically-power aircraft with no pilot.

The flight has given the public the first real glimpse of what to expect when the drones are set to enter service when all safety boxes have been checked over the next five years.

"This is another testament to our commitment to driving positive change", said Sheikh Hamdan in a statement.

The video, created by the developers of the fleet of taxis, Volocopter, shows the test flight of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying from an airstrip just outside Dubai's city limits. "We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community and advance the prosperity and happiness of society", he added.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai's crown prince, oversaw the empty flight during a ceremony near the upmarket Jumeirah Beach Park.

The drone taxi is powered by 18 rotors and includes an "intelligent autonomous control system", said Volocopter.

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Michael Rudolph, Head, Regulations and Safety, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, was on hand for the special flight and told Gulf News shortly afterward that the test flight was a world first in the history of aviation.

Nine independent batteries take two hours to reach full charge in the prototype, but charging time is expected to go down in the production version.

The drones include "luxurious interiors and leather seating" for passengers, is powered by clean energy and produces low noise levels.

Over the next five years, it will work with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to ensure operational requirements for the AAT are put in place.

The test comes as the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy seeks to turn a quarter of the city's transportation system into autonomous transport by 2030.

The German-made Volocopter prototype takes two hours to fully charge, and can fly for about 30 minutes at a cruising speed of roughly 30 miles per hour. The RTA said the "features will evolve in the production of vehicles".