You’d have to wait a while to get onboard Dubai’s air taxi

Volocopter to run driverless air taxis in Dubai starting Q4

DUBAI 20 June 2017: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has extended the test run of its manned Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT) to meet all operational requirements of safety and security for these type of vehicles.

RTA announced the signing of an agreement with German AAT specialist firm Volocopter, to launch the first vehicle capable of carrying two passengers. The trial operation of this taxi will begin gradually in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The AAV during a test flight in Dubai: Image Courtesy Ehang
The AAV during a test flight in Dubai: Image Courtesy Ehang

Earlier, RTA had tested an AAT flight by Chinese firm Ehang’s – and had revealed it has been in talks with Uber on driverless planes [see links below].

“In the final quarter of this year, the RTA will launch the trial run of the AAT, and the experimental phase is likely to continue, with the follow up of the issuance of the legislations required to operate such a kind of vehicles for about five years,” Mattar Al Tayer, RTA Director-General and Chairman.

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“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,” said RTA Director-General and Chairman.

“The test run of the first Autonomous Air Taxi capable of carrying two passengers 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,” said Al Tayer.

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“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. Another objective is to enhance the integration between mass transit modes and people’s happiness by providing smooth, fast and innovative transit modes,” he added.

“The AAT is powered by electricity and has high safety features, thanks to its design comprising 18 rotors to ensure safe cruising and landing of the taxi in case of any rotor failure. The air taxi is characterized by its autopilot or autonomous flying, thus enabling the movement of people from place to another without human intervention or a need for flight licence holder,” continued Al Tayer.

“A delegation from RTA visited several autonomous air vehicle manufacturers, and the German Volocopter company was selected thanks to its compliance with the international safety and security standards, and passing the rigorous standards of the German Aviation Authority, which apply the highest safety and security in designing and operating aircrafts.

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RTA is working with 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.

In coordination with 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.

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Specifications of the Autonomous Air Taxi

The Autonomous Air Taxi has a variety of unique features highlighted by top security & safety standards, and multiple redundancy in all critical components such as propellers, motors, power source, electronics and flight controls. It is also fitted with a full aircraft emergency parachute, nine independent battery systems, battery quick-change & plug-in system, and fast battery charging time of 40 minutes.

The AAT is charcterised by luxurious interiors and leather seating for two persons. It is environment-friendly as it is powered by clean electricity, has very low noise. It has a maximum flight time is approximately 30 minutes at a cruise speed of 50 km/h, and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h. The AAT measures about two meters in height, and the diameter of the rotor rim including propellers is about seven meters.

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By Angel Chan