A passenger drone that can transport people is set to begin regular operations in Dubai from July this year. This was announced at the World Government Summit by the head of the city’s Roads and Transportation Agency.
With a lot of talk in recent years around self-driving cars, now, self-flying passenger drones are next — and could be up and flying in Dubai as soon as July this year.
The auto-piloted and eco-friendly EHang 184 is Chinese-made, with a top speed of 100 miles per hour. The egg shaped craft can fly 31 miles on one fully charged battery and can carry a single passenger with a small bag of a combined mass of 220 pounds.
Passengers will be able to select a destination from the self-driving taxi on a touch screen. The drone taxi will then take off automatically, transporting the passenger to their destination.
Senior lecturer in avionics and aircraft systems at the University of the West of England, Dr. Steve Wright, told BBC that the safety would have to be paramount. He said, “that normally it is easy to make the system to work. The tricky bit is making systems that are resilient to failure”.
“I would like to see the drone flying for at least 1000 hours before I saw a human in it,” Dr. Wright added.
Dr Wright did mention that he would not be volunteering for an early flight: “I’d have to be taken on board kicking and screaming.”
In a statement, the Roads & Transportation Authority said that the drones would be monitored remotely from a ground-based control room. “There’s no option to take control of the EHang 184 remotely,” adds The Daily Mail of London. “The cockpit is empty, apart from a stand to place a smartphone or tablet and a cup holder.”
“You know how it feels to sit in a Ferrari? This is 10 times better,” George Yan, co-founder of Ehang, told the Daily Mail in 2016 after the 184 was unveiled in Las Vegas.
“Everything is calculated in the backend to pick the most optimal route for you, so there is no collision with the other drones flying,” Yan added. “On the drone itself we have built pretty sophisticated back up services so if another system fails then another will take over.”
“This is not only a model,” Mattar al-Tayer, head of Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Authority, told AP. He added: “We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”
We can expect to see more drones flying over the roads in the near future. At the start of the year, Israeli firm Urban Aeronautics announced that its Cormorant passenger drone – designed for military use – could be in use by 2020.
The £11 million drone can carry 500 kilograms at 185 kilometres per hour.
Image Source: ehang.com