The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) has begun testing on a proof-of-concept autonomous air taxi, flying for five minutes approximately 650 feet above a windy residential neighborhood.
The air taxis (AATs) are built by the German company Volocopter. Looking like a helicopter with a drone's rotors attached at the top, it is meant to seat 2 with 18 propellors. Unmanned for its first run, the test and surrounding ceremony was arranged by Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.
Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA, said the AAT has "top security and safety standards". "It is also fitted with optional emergency parachutes, nine independent battery systems, and a battery quick-charge and plug-in system."
The battery takes two hours to reach full charge in the prototype version. This will be "significantly reduced in the production version", he said.
Dubai officials said they are working to establish the standards and specifications that must be met to operate the air taxis safely in Dubai, which will be the first such official standards in the world.
The Volocopters will be capable of autonomous operation, although a pilot may be required at first for taxi operations. When operating autonomously, passengers will be able to book a flight using an app, then enter a booking reference number on an interactive screen in the cabin to initiate the flight.
Dubai has a target for autonomous transport to account for a quarter of total trips by 2030. “Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said in a statement.
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