In an attempt to set up the first automated taxi service, Dubai has tested Volocopter’s drone to see if it cuts the mustard.
The initiative was backed by technology from Daimler and on its maiden voyage, it took Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed on a five-minute flight 200 metres above the desert.
However, the companies involved wanted to stress that five minutes wouldn’t be the norm for voyages in future. It wants to be able to offer flights of up to 30 minutes, which would be able to take passengers a significant distance.
Dubai wants to introduce an automated taxi service that allows you to book your vehicle using an app just like Uber, and then the helicopter-like vehicle will arrive at a “voloport” near your current location, where you’ll jump aboard and take to the skies. It’ll then fly you to your destination, without a pilot in sight.
Each vehicle will feature parachutes for passengers, a back up battery and rotors, just in case something goes wrong while in the air, although it’s unlikely they’ll ever need to be used. They will take off and land vertically, like a helicopter, with rotors on the top to help them stay in the air.
At the moment, the Volocopters use GPS to navigate around, but the company is working on introducing more sophisticated technology that will be able to sense and avoid objects, including buildings, trees and anything else that could cause a danger in the air.
Dubai is hoping its automated taxis will be commercially available in the next five years and the companies involve are positive it’ll change the transport industry for the better.