Come July, passenger drones will be buzzing around in the Dubai skyline. Mattar al-Tayer, the chief of Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Authority (RTA) said at the World Government Summit Monday that the city would start flying single-passenger drones in July as an alternative mode of transportation. The drone, Chinese-made EHang 184, has already made test flights over the Burj al-Arab skyscraper hotel in Dubai.
The drone has a range of 32 miles
Dubai already has a driverless rail service. So, autonomous drones carrying passengers from one place to another shouldn’t be a big deal for the futuristic city-state. The passenger drones will be more than just a novelty. But as the Associated Press points out, it is too early to say whether they would be able to ease traffic on the city’s congested roads.
Before Mattar al-Tayer’s statement, the four-legged, egg-shaped drone was treated merely as a curiosity rather than a transport alternative. He told media that the RTA had thoroughly tested the vehicle in Dubai’s skies. The EHang 184 drone is capable of carrying one passenger weighing up to 220 pounds (100kg) and a suitcase. It has a maximum speed of 100mph, but the authorities plan to operate it typically at 62mph.
The drone’s battery allows for a flight time of 30 minutes and a range of 32 miles. However, the flight time could decline if it needs to operate at higher altitudes to avoid Dubai’s skyscrapers. There will be a command room on the ground to control the drones flying around the city. According to the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, the EHang 184 drone is controlled via 4G LTE Internet.
Passenger drones part of Dubai’s grand vision for the future
Once the passenger takes their seat and buckles in, they have to select the destination from a pre-determined list. Mattar al-Tayer did not reveal other details such as whether the drones would be available for sale or there would be a fleet available to hire. The United Arab Emirates currently requires the drone enthusiasts to register their craft.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai, announced last year that he wanted at least 25% of all passenger transportation in the Emirates to take place through autonomous vehicles by 2030. The EHang 184 drone appears to be a part of his bold vision for the future. The oil-rich UAE has plenty of cash to spend on futuristic technologies.
Will EHang drone fly in the US?
EHang first unveiled its drone at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2016. It had even gained clearance to test the drone in Nevada in August 2016. However, the EHang 184 can’t transport passengers in the United States until it has been cleared by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has also signed an agreement with Hyperloop One to study the possibility of building a Hyperloop line between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.