Dubai set to trial electric Volocopter as air taxi

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced that flying taxis will soon be taking to the emirate’s skies.

A five-year trial due to start later this year will see the all-electric Volocopter undertaking test flights in the UAE city. Designed and built in Germany, the Volocopter can fly autonomously using 18 individual rotors powered by nine swappable batteries. The aircraft has a top speed of 100km/h and maximum flight time of around 30 minutes.

“The test will start in the fourth quarter of 2017, and the project has been scheduled to run for five years,” said Alexander Zosel, co-founder of Volocopter. “We are very grateful and proud that the RTA has selected us as their partner after rigorous testing.”

Over the course of the five-year trial, all operational aspects of the vehicle will be scrutinised, including the Volocopter’s emergency parachute system. Known in Dubai as Autonomous Air Taxis (AATs), the aircraft will be able to carry up to two people at a time, quickly transporting them from point to point around the city. According to the RTA, around a quarter of all journeys in Dubai could be carried out via autonomous transport by 2030.

“The RTA is working with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to develop the legislative and operational guidelines, define specifications and standards applicable to operators in the emirate such that these legislations will be ready,” said HE Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the RTA.

“It is noteworthy that the operational and legislative structures will be the first of their kind worldwide.”