Dubai hopes to launch self-flying drone taxi service this summer

Dubai's Roads and Transportation Authority announced yesterday that it tested an autonomous drone capable of carrying passengers far above the city's infamous traffic jams. The RTA held the demonstration at a three-day summit of leaders called the World Government Summit. The hope is to have the autonomous taxis operational in the United Arab Emirates by mid-year, officials told the Kuwait Times. The drones are from the Chinese company Ehang.

This particular model, the Ehang 184, can travel 62 miles an hour at a height of 984 feet, well above any adverse road conditions. It can power its eight propellers using an electric motor for up to 30 minutes. Recharge time takes just two hours. The drone's takeoff, flight, and landing are all monitored by ground control. The drone was specially designed to stand up to Dubai's punishing summer days and cold nights.

"The autonomous aerial vehicle exhibited at the World Government Summit is not just a model," transportation authority head Matta Al-Tayer told the Times. "We have already experiment (with) the vehicle in flight (the) Dubai sky."

While many would balk at the idea of hopping in an autonomous flying car, Ehang designed the 184 with a lot of safety systems. If even the slightest thing goes wrong mechanically with the drone, it automatically lands at the nearest safe destination, Khaleej Times reported. The drone also comes equipped with secure networks to ward off hackers.

The UAE is on the forefront of experimental transportation. It will also be the site of Elon Musk's very first Hyperloop One. The Hyperloop is promising to whisk travelers from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, a trip of over 100 miles, in just 12 minutes. The UAE has also set very aggressive goals for implementing self-driving cars. It hopes to have autonomous cars making up a full quarter of their traffic by 2030.

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