Dubai wants to be the future. And if it takes a flying taxi to get there, then they’re just fine with that.
When the Ehang 184 flying taxi was first put on display at CES 2016, we were pretty skeptical. There were the regulatory and logistical challenges, plus the fact that the drone-inspired design took a helicopter’s rotor blades and moved them to kneecap height. Indeed, copying the design of a quadcopter and taking away the controls seemed liked a promotional gimmick to classify a mico-helicopter as a drone in order to promote Ehang’s other offerings. Well… it turns out we were wrong about that.
Following testing, Ehang expects to have the flying taxi service up and running in Dubai by as soon as July 2017. Each unit will be operated from a command centre. Once the customer steps into their seat they select their destination on a tablet and the system takes care of the rest. According to the Dubai Road and Transport Authority’s promotional video, seen above, the taxi has a range of 40km to 50km, a 30 minute battery charge and a maximum speed of 160 kmph. It can also carry 100kg plus luggage. Meanwhile, it can cope with all weather conditions save thunderstorms and redundancy in the hardware means that the taxi can safely land with one of it’s propellers disabled.
Obviously, the Ehang 184 isn’t exactly a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), so it’s being dubbed an AAV – an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle.
The Director General of Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority, Mattar Al Tayer, is quoted by Gulf News as saying: “The trial run of the first AAV is… to transform Dubai into the smartest city in the world. It is also part of RTA’s endeavours to provide self-driving transport through engaging in the technological tests of self-driving vehicles [in Dubai’s] environment… The step would also enhance the integration between public transport modes and people happiness through the provision of smooth, quick and innovative mobility.”
The city already has a driverless train system and talks are currently underway to connect Dubai to Abu Dhabi and al-Ain via Hyperloop vacuum tubes.