Soon, a flying taxi fleet will be zipping around the skies above Dubai.
Dubai's Road and Transportation Authority (RTA) announced plans to deploy a passenger-carrying drone service at the World Government Summit just this February. The drone is called the EHang 184, by the Chinese Company EHang, Inc. It first debuted and conducted test flights last year. Now, it's on its way to becoming a reality.
Because the taxi is actually a drone, it means that there will be no pilot manning the vehicle. Not only does it fly, it's also autonomous. Though this is of course amazing, the drone does have its limitations. For one thing, it can't function like an actual taxi in that it can't take passengers to just any point in the city. It has predetermined routes and thus functions more like a shuttle service.
Of course, it'll still be quite the advancement in drone and autonomous transport technologies.
Dubai didn't plan on deploying flying taxis just for the sake of doing so. This is part of a long-term plan to have these taxis make a quarter of Dubai's total journeys by 2030. It's also part of the plan to make Dubai the “smartest city in the world”, RTA director Mattar Al Tayer tells CNN.
So how does riding a flying taxi work? The passenger only has to input their destination through a smart screen inside the vehicle. The vehicle itself will do the rest. It can carry up to 100 kilograms, which is basically one passenger and perhaps a piece of luggage.
EHang 184 has eight propellers, two in each of its four arms, that can carry the vehicle in its journey through the sky. The 184 in the drone's name actually stands for one passenger, eight propellers, and four arms. These propellers can push the drone to cruise at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. The drone can also park in a single car space when not in flight.
A remote command center will pilot and monitor the drones as they make their way around the city. The controls run on 4G mobile internet and are fully electric. The drone doesn't need fuel to run and thus does not produce harmful emissions.
Though flying through the skies in something that's basically a drone is an exciting prospect, it can also be scary. This is understandable, of course. It's an entirely new technology, and it's one that may take some getting used to. One of the things that people ask about the EHang 184 is what happens if something goes wrong.
What if, for example, the command center loses its connection to the drone? What if something disrupts the signal that keeps the drone flying safely in the sky? In the event that the connection between the command center and the drone experiences interruption, the drone will land at a safe spot right away. In any case, EHang assures the public that cruising in a flying taxi is safe, and is definitely an experience of a lifetime.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!