The future of drone taxi services and flying cars just got brighter with Dubai staging initial tests of its Volocopter.
You read that right. A drone taxi might soon be flying the skies of Dubai as the emirate reportedly staged its very first public test. Dubbed as the Volocopter, the self-piloting drone is powered by electricity, less noisy, and has a smaller physical and environmental footprint than the conventional helicopter, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The Volocopter drone taxi offers space large enough for two passengers. At 6.5-foot high, the copter is topped by a 22-foot-wide hoop supported by 18 rotors. In the video of the test circulated online, the drone taxi flew, unoccupied, 650 feet over the sand close to the Jumeirah Beach Park. It flew for around five minutes before safely landing.#Dubai just tested its future drone taxi! A big step in achieving its dreams of conquering the sky!Click To Tweet
The flight test was witnessed by Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai.
The future flying taxi may have only flown for a few minutes, but the said test significantly reflects Dubai’s ambitious dream of transforming the emirate into a smart city where drones and robots are apparently a part of.
Dubai’s Drone Taxi Service
The drone taxi exhibition was short, but in the future, Dubai and the German maker of Volocopter, Daimler, wanted to offer longer rides that could last up to 30 minutes. The supposed drone taxi service would operate similarly with the car-hailing app Uber.
Future users would have to download the app and book the flying taxi through it. The passenger would then have to wait on a nearby ‘voloport.’ In addition to that, the makers of the copter would ensure the safety of its passengers by equipping the drone with a backup supply of batteries and rotors, together with a couple of parachutes.
The unmanned flight test was the latest step taken by Dubai to push its major transportation shift towards driverless vehicles. By 2030, the city aims to make 25 percent of local passenger trips to be driverless.
While Dubai only ranks 85 in the world when it comes to the most congested city, its rulers are bent on making the emirate a hub for transportation innovation. In a statement, Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan said:
“This is another testament to our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community and advance the prosperity and happiness of society.”
The Crown Prince also stated that “adopting advanced innovative technologies and applications that help to enhance services for the community is key to topping global competitiveness rankings.”
“Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” he went on to say.
The Volocopter prototype tested in Dubai takes around two hours to be fully charged. It can fly for approximately 30 minutes at a cruising speed of roughly 30 miles per hour. The future drone taxi could reach a maximum speed of up to 60 mph. Daimler said that the first licensed Volocopter would be out in the market come 2018. However, the company did not divulge any price for the copter, yet.
While Dubai has already taken the first step to making drone taxi services a reality, experts said that a lot of work would be needed to make it commonplace. The RTA also said that a number of regulatory structures have to be put in place for the Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT) to be operational.
The Future of Flying Cars
Aside from Dubai and Daimler, companies such as the EADS Co. and Uber Technologies are working on their own version of flying cars.
The A3 think tank from EADS Co.’s Airbus offers the self-piloting single-seater Vahana. The company is currently marketing Vahana not just as a flying taxi, but as an emergency vehicle and delivery drone as well. Uber, on the other hand, partnered with other companies for its flying car project which it plans to test in 2020.
With the rapid progress in the development of self-flying vehicles and drones, it probably won’t be long for humans to take traffic into the skies.