Dubai has test-flown an uncrewed two-seater drone designed to transport people autonomously. Called the Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT), the city claims the vehicle will be the world’s first “self-flying taxi service.” The AAT is environmentally friendly, powered by electricity, and the prototype version has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes, at a cruising speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
The drone was uncrewed and hovered 200 meters high during the test flight, according to Reuters. The AAT, which is about two meters high, was supplied by specialist German manufacturer Volocopter, known for its eponymous helicopter drone hybrid with 18 rotors. The AAT is fitted with optional emergency parachutes and nine independent battery systems. Each battery takes two hours to fully charge, but that charging time will be “significantly reduced” in the final production version of the taxi, the Government of Dubai claims.
There are also plans to make AAT available to the public via a smartphone app that would allow users to book flights and track routes. The Government of Dubai says over the next five years, Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) will work with the country and city’s aviation authorities to develop policy and laws for the AAT and its services. Trial operations will take place during this time, and US company JDA Aviation will oversee preparations for the AAT flights and manage safety.
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.