In a daring new move, Dubai’s Department of Transportation has announced that they intend to have a driverless drone taxi in place by this summer. The EHang 184 drone has already done a fly-by over Dubai, but this is soon planned to be more than a novelty and will be a full service by July of this year.
The EHang was debuted at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in San Francisco and was tested in Nevada. It looks much like an egg-shaped pod with four rotors on it. With the ability to fly up to 50 km at a cruising speed of approximately 100 km/h, the EHang has a large addressable market within the city of Dubai. Most importantly, it can carry about 100 kg, which is enough for a single person and some small luggage.
Dubai has a long history of investing in futuristic technologies, and this could be one that pays off and helps a lot with the congestion the city experiences on a day-to-day basis. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the rule of Dubai, has already stated that his goal is to have 25% of passenger journeys be carried out by autonomous vehicles by 2030. A demonstration of the drone is shown below.
Forbes reports a more sceptical version of the story by pointing out that this drone has not actually executed a paid flight anywhere in the world yet. That, and the fact that even the recent demos were graphically rendered, is enough to make anyone wonder whether this is too ambitious a goal.
Details on the plan are very limited, but it seems as if the drone will be controlled by 4G internet. EHang has not issued an official statement on this plan or the where they are in the development and testing process.
It seems like the Dubai government could be getting too far ahead of themselves in the name of achieving great things. With other initiatives in partnership with Hyperloop in the works, they are positioned to be well ahead of almost any other city as long – they just can’t push it too much.