The trial operation of a two-passenger autonomous air taxi (AAT) or flying taxi in Dubai “will begin gradually in the fourth quarter of 2017,” the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said on Monday.
“The RTA has extended the test run of its manned AAT to meet all operational requirements of safety and security for these type of vehicles,” the RTA said in a statement. “The trial operation of this (flying) taxi will begin gradually in the fourth quarter of 2017.”
The RTA also announced the signing of an agreement with the German Volocopter Company, a specialist in the manufacturing of autonomous aerial vehicles, to launch the first vehicle capable of carrying two passengers.
The flying taxi, measuring about two meters in height and seven-meter wide, is electric-powered, run by nine independent quick-change and plug-in battery systems. It can cruise at a speed of 50 km/h with maximum airspeed set at 100 km/h. The maximum flight time is approximately 30 minutes; while battery charging will take 40 minutes. It also has 18 rotors to ensure safe cruising and landing of the taxi in case of any rotor failure and it is fitted with a full aircraft emergency parachute. It also boasts of luxurious interiors and leather seating for two persons.
Mattar Al Tayer, RTA director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, said: “The test run of the first AAT capable of carrying two passengers is in implementation of the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform Dubai into the smartest city worldwide. It also comes as part of RTA’s efforts to provide autonomous transportation by conducting the required technological tests of those vehicles under the climatic conditions of Dubai.”
“The move also echoes Dubai’s Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy that seeks to transform a quarter of the total mobility journeys in Dubai into autonomous transport by 2030,” he added.
According to Al Tayer, the aerial taxi has autopilot or autonomous flying capability thus enabling the movement of people without human intervention or a need for flight license holder.
“During the trial period, all aspects relating to the operation as well as security and safety of the autonomous aerial taxi will be verified and checked. The official operation hinges on the readiness of companies and the availability of legislations necessary for operating autonomous aerial vehicles,” Al Tayer underlined.
He added that 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 before the date set for the commercial and official operation of the autonomous air vehicles.
“It is noteworthy that the operational and legislative structures will be the first of their kind worldwide. In coordination with its strategic partners and in the emirate, RTA will specify the air routes of journeys, take-off and landing points of these taxis as well as the logistics needed to ensure safe and smooth mobility of passengers. RTA will forge additional partnerships with other manufacturers of autonomous air vehicles after ensuring their fulfilment of the specifications and standards of air safety approved in Dubai,” Al Tayer enumerated.
Meanwhile, a delegation from RTA recently visited several autonomous air vehicle manufacturers, and the German VOLOCOPTER company was selected for its compliance with the international safety and security standards, and passing the rigorous standards of the German Aviation Authority.