In just a couple of months from now it will be possible to call up an autonomous drone on an app via your phone or smartwatch and fly across traffic snarled Dubai to your destination.
The head of Dubai’s transportation agency said that self-flying taxis would start taking people across the city starting from July.
The city will use the Ehang 184 for the airborne service. The Ehang is a drone that can fly without human direction and carry a single passenger and their baggage. It can take one person on a journey up to 23 minutes long.
“This is not only a model, we have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies,” Mattar al-Tayer, Head of Dubai’s transportation agency
To call for a flying taxi, all passengers will need to do is enter their destination into an app. The drone then maps the route and transports the passenger to their destination. It can’t fly directly but has to hop from one set landing spot to another. Its propellers fold inwards as it lands so it can fit in a single car parking space.
Designed to be secure, the autonomous vehicle has a “fail safe” system, according to the company, that prompts it to land in the nearest place if anything malfunctions or disconnects. It also communicates via encrypted channels.
It comes at a time when a growing number of companies are looking at the viability of airborne, autonomous taxis as a way to ease urban congestion and transportation woes, but the city of Dubai is all set to leapfrog those with the introduction of their Uber Drone this summer.
Uber, Airbus and others are still talking about creating test vehicles that would begin transporting cargo first, but Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency lead announced (via Mashable) at the World Government Summit in the city that they’re going to begin operating a passenger service along pre-determined routes starting in July, using the Ehang 184 autonomous quad-opener electric drone to ferry people through the air.
The Ehang 184 can carry one passenger with a max weight of 220 pounds, for a distance of 31 miles on one charge and at a top speed of 100 mph. It’s plenty enough for short haul trips across a busy urban landscape. Dubai officials will remotely monitor the drones, and pilot them from a centralized command center, and the city says it’s already started test flying the vehicle in Dubai skies.