The people of Dubai might soon be hailing their taxis via the sky.
At the World Government Summit 2017, Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Authority announced they will be implementing passenger-carrying, self-driving drones by this summer.
“I am glad to inform you that hopefully we will be able to have these drones available starting July 2017,” said Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of the RTA, at the Summit.
The first drone model to be introduced is the EHang 184. EHang is an international tech company based in Guangzhou, China. Its mission: to “let humankind fly freely like a bird.”
And the 184 does just that. It claims to carry up to 220 pounds, fly for 25 minutes, and reach heights of two miles above sea level. There are conflicting results on the speed of the aircraft, RTA representatives say it will reach 60 mph, but the company reports it cruises at a speed of 37 mph.
The 530-pound aerial vehicle is elegantly designed with a carbon fiber, egg-shaped body, four flexible legs with eight propellers, and a cozy interior for its passengers. All a person has to do is click a single button to their destination and the vehicle will do the rest.
It uses a 4G LTE network and GPS location systems to guide itself. If any anomalies occur, the vehicle has an embedded fail-safe system that requires it to land immediately. There will also be a ground control center that will monitor real-time flight dispatch and deliver air traffic guidance to the drones. The company is making sure the flight is absolutely safe.
It is also electric and uses the energy to generate torque, giving the vehicle its speed. It also uses electronic motors, which are equipped with sensors that monitor wind and precipitation so the drone can stably fly in most weather conditions.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, announced the Autonomous Transportation Strategy in April 2016, which aims for 25 percent of the vehicle transportation in Dubai to be driverless by 2030. Ehang only just debuted its 184 at CES in January 2016, and saw it approved for flight tests in June 2016.
‘’Dubai is leading cities of the world and making a qualitative paradigm shift to harness artificial intelligence in the service of the humanity and set a world-unparalleled model for future cities, and is evolving into a global laboratory for technology,” he said.
The Ehang 184 is definitely steering the city-state in the right direction, but the company’s not the only one developing the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles. The Airbus Vahana is similar in spirit to the Ehang 184, and its developers want to fly the VTOL aircraft by 2020. The Vahana was approved for flight tests in June.
Uber is developing a remarkably ambitious plan for flying cars and recently lured away NASA’s VTOL expert.