Flying Taxi Tested in Dubai

If you are one of the millions of commuters who have to spend hours in traffic each weekday, you will probably appreciate Dubai’s new taxi scheme. This city in the United Arab Emirates is now testing out what they hope will be the world’s first drone taxi service.

The drones in this case look more like little helicopters than traditional drones. The current model is designed to seat two people and can fly for up to 30 minutes at a time. They also fly without remote control guidance, which is another deviation from typical drones.

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The authorities in Dubai are also taking safety quite seriously. Each drone is equipped with multiple safety features in case something goes wrong in these pilot-less aircrafts. Along with back-up rotors and batteries, the large drones also come equipped with parachutes should the passengers need to make an emergency escape.

Using the drone-taxis promises to be pretty easy, too. If someone needs a ride, they could order up one of the flying taxis on their smartphone by using an app, similar to the procedures used for other ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. You would then go meet the drone, called a volocopter, at a pick-up station called a “voloport.” The volocopter would then come autonomously pick you up and take you where you want to go.

During the test flight, which took place yesterday, the volocopter reached a height of about 600 feet and spent about five minutes flying over the sandy beaches of Dubai. The occasion was deemed momentous enough for the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates to make an appearance.

Don’t expect to be able to take a ride on an unmanned drone-taxi anytime soon, though. The developers of the project don’t expect the service to be available to the public for about five more years. There are a few adaptations that still need to be made, and they need to make sure the drones are fully capable of maneuvering around unexpected obstacles.

The German firm behind the current drone model, also called Volocopter, is not the only company trying to create the perfect flying taxi. Uber, the ride-hailing business, and Airbus, an aircraft manufacturer, are also developing their own unmanned drone-taxis, as are several other companies. With this many powerful players in the game, Dubai may not be the only city with its own flying taxis. Such a service could do much to ease congestion in many of the world’s busiest cities.

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