Dubai’s goal of becoming the first city in the world to be home to a flying taxi service seems like it’s coming closer to achievement, with a live demonstration of the vehicle developed by the Germany-based firm Volocopter having taken place this week.
The vehicle — a small, 2-seat helicopter featuring 18 propellers — was unmanned during this demonstration flight, as the plan is for the flying taxis to operate autonomously once the tech is ready.
The demonstration was put on for the sake of Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, a supporter of the broader United Arab Emirates’ push to establish itself as a “future oriented” society.
A public statement issued by Sheikh Hamdan read: “Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contributes not only to the country’s development but also builds bridges into the future.”
Reuters provides more: “Meant to run without remote control guidance and with a maximum flight duration of 30 minutes, it comes with plenty of fail-safes in case of trouble: back-up batteries, rotors and, for a worst case scenario, a couple of parachutes.
“Volocopter is in a race with more than a dozen well-funded European and US firms, each with its own science fiction-inspired vision for creating a new form of urban transport that is a cross between a driverless electric car and a short-hop, vertical takeoff-and-landing aircraft.
“These include aerospace giant Airbus, which aims to put a self-piloting taxi in the air by 2020; Kitty Hawk, a company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page; and Uber, which is working with partners on its own flying taxi strategy.”
On a related note, the UAE recently took receipt of a number of Tesla Model S sedans and Model X SUVs that will be used in a new taxi service launching there. The aim is for this service to eventually utilize fully self-driving vehicles — presumably Teslas, but I would guess that choice could change if other companies were first to market with self-driving options.
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