Dubai to commence unmanned aerial taxi service

14 February 2017

Roads & Transport Authority says safety has been sufficiently addressed

Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) expects to start a self-driving aerial taxi service by July in collaboration with Chinese drones manufacturer EHang Company.

This follows a series of tests using an unmanned autonomous vehicle (AAV) that is big enough to carry one person on board, the RTA said.

The vehicle has a touchscreen indicating preset routes. Once a passenger selects a route, the vehicle will automatically start, take off, cruise, descend and land at a predestined spot, with the entire operation monitored from a ground control centre.

The drone model, EHang184, can travel at a maximum speed of 160kph at an altitude of 300 metres. It is designed to fly for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Seeking to reassure public about safety of the vehicle, Mattar al-Tayer, RTA director general and chairman, said they have “addressed the highest levels of security in the designing and manufacturing of the EHang184.”

The vehicle deploys what the manufacturer calls fail-safe system. It is equipped with eight propellers, with one propeller operating at a time. This means there are multiple spare propellers that can be activated to ensure a flight is completed in the case of one propeller failing.

The RTA has yet to identify the routes for the service or the number of vehicles that will cater to these routes.

The initiative, announced at the ongoing World Government Summit in Dubai, is in line with Dubai’s  strategy to have driverless trips account for 25 per cent of total individual trips in the emirate by 2030.

The RTA has also recently tendered a consultancy contract for organising a competition to atract the world’s top autonomous vehicle technology and management companies in Dubai.

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