The city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates plans to be the first in the world to have an operational drone taxi system.
With tests already conducted around the Burj al-Arab tower, the system will aim to significantly reduce transit times in the city’s downtown area.
For the aircraft itself, Dubai is planning to use the Ehang-184, manufactured by Chinese company Ehang UAV.
These quadrotor craft resemble a scaled-up version of common quadcopter drones, with the power to carry a single human passenger.
Unlike normal helicopters, however, the Ehang-184 flies completely autonomously meaning it does not require a skilled pilot to operate it.
Moreover, the craft runs on battery electric power rather than an internal combustion motor, allowing it to be 100% emissions free.
Each aircraft has a top speed of 160km/h and is able to travel for 30 minutes on a single battery change.
According to reporting by Associated Press, the plans to start using this aircraft were announced by Mattar al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency this week.
“This is not only a model,” al-Tayer said referring to the Ehang-184. “We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”
While a July start date for the system has been announced, Ehang has not released any statement on these plans, and currently, no information is available regarding where exactly it will operate.
One major hurdle for Dubai to overcome if it wants to roll out this technology are wide-ranging the safety concerns.
While elsewhere in the world (such as in Nevada) the Ehang-184, as well as similar craft, have been approved for test flights, there have yet to be any confirmed manned flights.
The reason for this is quite simple: these aircraft, as experimental designs, are incredibly dangerous.
Until they can prove themselves through 1000s of hours of flight time, these craft should not be used without trained pilots and sophisticated safety systems.
Should a single mechanical, electrical or software component fail, these drone taxis would likely crash and kill their occupants.