Dubai plans to launch a flying taxi service by July 2017

14 Feb 2017

Illustration of the Ehang 184. Image: Ehang

It appears as if the wealthy city of Dubai will be the first to launch a flying taxi service as early as this July, having successfully tested a new Chinese prototype craft called the Ehang 184.

The flying car has quickly moved from being a science fiction pipe dream to the potential transport of the future, with Uber being one one of the most likely to create a fleet of airborne vehicles.

The city of Dubai might just beat the ride-hailing company to the punch, however, as its transport authority has tested a flying taxi prototype developed by a Chinese company.

Called the Ehang 184, the electrically powered vehicle would be completely autonomous, travelling on a programmed course at a speed of 100kph, 300m high.

When a passenger approaches the craft, they simply hop in and tell it where to go. It will then land at one of a number of approved landing sites that will be maintained by a number of air traffic controllers.

According to AFP, the Chinese craft would be capable of trips lasting as long as 30 minutes with a recharge time of three hours. It could be the answer to the city’s plan to make one-quarter of its public transport autonomous by 2030.

Not ‘just a model’

The craft will be generated by eight propellers, and will look like a human-sized aircraft, similar in design to a drone.

Given the extreme heat found in the United Arab Emirates, its designers and the Dubai authority have assured that its advanced sensors will be heat-resistant.

The city’s transport authority has confirmed it plans to have at least one of the vehicles operating this July.

“The autonomous aerial vehicle exhibited at the World Government Summit is not just a model,” said Mattar al-Tayer, the authority’s director.

“We have already experimented [with] the vehicle in a flight in [the] Dubai sky.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic