Dubai has staged the maiden flight of what it hopes will be the world’s first self-flying taxi service.
The first trial of the drone taxi took place near Jumeirah Beach Park on Monday, in a ceremony overseen by Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Sheikh Hamdan pressed the operation button to launch the unmanned craft, and observed its flight.
“After the remarkable success of the first driverless metro in the region, we are glad to witness today the test flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi,” Sheikh Hamdan later said in a statement.
“This is another testament to our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community and advance the prosperity and happiness of society.”
A video shared by the Dubai Media Office shows the taxi whirring through the sky, before returning to base.
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) September 25, 2017
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has teamed up with German drone firm Volocopter to develop the two-seater vehicle, officially known as the Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT).
Powered by clean electricity, the AAT has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes at a cruise speed of 50 km/h, and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h.
It measures about two metres in height, and the diameter of the rotor rim, including propellers, is just over seven metres.
The RTA confirmed in June that trials would gradually begin in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Over the next five years, it will work with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to ensure operational requirements for the AAT are put in place.
The RTA has appointed US-based JDA Aviation Company, an autonomous air vehicle safety specialist, to oversee preparations for AAT flights and manage safety.
Though it is not yet known exactly when the service will launch, passengers will be able to book flights using a smart mobility app.