Dubai to launch self-flying taxis this summer

Driverless passenger drones could take to the skies above Dubai as soon as July 2017 according to the city’s transport chief.

The plans were unveiled by Mattar Al Tayar, Chairman of Dubai’s Road & Transport Authority during a speech at the UAE’s annual World Government Summit.

Al Tayer revealed that the city plans to use an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) produced by Chinese drone specialist Ehang. “RTA will spare no effort to launch the AAV in July 2017,” he said.

Originally unveiled at the 2016 CES show in Las Vegas, the Ehang 184 is claimed to be the first vehicle of its kind to offer autonomous human flight over short-to-medium distances.

Able to fly at altitudes of upto 500 metres and stay aloft for around 30 minutes, the fully unpiloted eight rotor aircraft can carry a single passenger weighing upto 100kg.

The firm claims that during use a passenger will select a destination using an on-board touchscreen and an intelligent flight control system will then guide the vehicle to its destination. The aircraft is said to be able to react autonomously to changing wind conditions and unexpected obstacles, but should it encounter any problems, technicians at a ground control centre are able to step in and pilot it safely to the ground.

Plans to launch the service in Dubai are part of a wider vision to transform the city into a global centre for driverless mobility. The city already boasts the world’s longest driverless metro and is also said to be considering the introduction of driverless buses and taxis. Dubai’s ruler – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – has previously stated an ambition that 25 per cent of all journeys made in Dubai will be driverless by 2030.