Dubai has serious plans to become the first city in the world to offer a flying taxi service. And tests have already started.
On Monday, the United Arab Emirates city staged a 5-minute test flight for a two-seater, 18-rotor drone, under the gazes of Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed and his entourage.
The flying vehicle resembling a small helicopter was unmanned for its first test run and hovered about 200 meters above a patch of sand.
Developed by German firm Volocopter—that recently received 25 million euros (USD $30 million) in funding by a consortium led by Daimler—it flies without remote control guidance for rides up to 30 minutes and comes equipped with backup batteries, rotors and a couple of parachutes, just in case…
Calling a Volocopter will be very much like calling a Uber, according to the startup’s CEO Florian Reuter. Simply by using a smartphone app, commuters will be able to order a Volocopter to a nearby ‘voloport’ and get a lift to their destination.
Florian Reuter says the model being tested “already is capable of flying based on GPS tracks today” but that in the future they “will implement full sense capability, also dealing with unknown obstacles on the way”.
If things go as planned, developers are expecting to initiate the taxis in Dubai within five years.
• This article was updated on 27 September 2017 to include photos and video of the test flight.