Dubai is set to fill its skies with these self-flying taxi drones later this year

No driver to talk to.
No driver to talk to.
Image: AP Photo/John Locher
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Dubai is planning to offer self-flying taxis by July, the city’s Road and Transportation Agency announced this week at the World Government Summit conference.

These four-legged, eight-propeller drones can carry a single passenger that weighs up to 100 kg (220 lb) and operate within an area of up to 50 km (31 miles) on a single battery charge, according to a video the RTA released on Monday. It can reach speeds of 160 km an hour.

The video shows a dapper businessman placing a briefcase in the craft’s tiny trunk and strapping himself into the single seat with a race-car like seatbelt. Then, he types his destination into a touch screen.

The Chinese-made EHang 184 vehicles have already been tested in the skies above Dubai, the city’s transport chief Mattar al-Tayer said. The concept is not dissimilar from the flying air taxi that Airbus is planning to test this year.

Dubai, which already has a driverless metro system, is trying to meet a lofty goal of alleviating congestion in the city. In April 2016, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, said a quarter of the vehicles in Dubai would be driverless by 2030.

The United Arab Emirates as a whole is becoming a hub for futuristic transport. Dubai signed a deal with Hyperloop One in November to study the viability of linking the city-state with Abu Dhabi through a vacuum-sealed tube—a concept that is the brainchild of Elon Musk.

Travelers inside the tube would travel at near supersonic speeds and complete the journey in 12 minutes. Its competitor, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, is also studying the construction of a similar tube between Abu Dhabi and the city of al-Ain, a trip that would take as little as 10 minutes.