Dubai is aiming to be the very first city in the world to have flying taxis publicly open. On Monday, the first tests of drone taxis were performed in the city that lately has been competing to be the most advanced in all the Arab world, and maybe soon worldwide.

The Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was who arranged the ceremony where it took place the first tests of the flying taxis, developed by the by German drone firm Volocopter. The successful “concept” flight did not involve any passenger.

Image credit: Reuters / New China
Image credit: Reuters / New China

These devices are in fact smaller compared with a standard helicopter, with only two seats for the driver and the guest. They also come with nine independent battery systems, according to Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

The cabin of this vehicle is topped by a wide hoop studded with 18 propellers that don’t need any remote guidance to be controlled. The flights are estimated to only last for 30 minutes at a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour (62mph), and are equipped with plenty of fail-safes in case of trouble: backup batteries, rotors and, if anything wrong happens and they are needed, a couple of parachutes.

Dubai has been leading the tourism ambit these late years. Here is located the world’s tallest tower (Burj Khalifa), impressive historical destinations, and majestic beaches. Just last year, around 14.9 million people visited the city.

The RTA envisions that the flying taxis will be open and integrated into the already existing public transport – which includes a metro system, tramway, and buses – in around five years. The Authority considers this would be a good amount of time to test the “autonomous air taxis,” and to organize the safety procedures and legislation.

Image credit: Reuters / New China
Image credit: Reuters / New China

International companies aiming very, very high

Volocopter is not the only enterprise with a very-futurist vision, seeking to create the first flying taxis. There are other dozens of well-funded European and U.S. firms, and all of them desire to be the first to innovate another public transport different from the ones we already know.

There is Airbus, the aerospace giant who wants to develop one of these drones to fit people and let them self-piloting the air-taxi by 2020. On the other hand, it’s Hawk, a company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page.

Additionally, there’s also the well-known company specialized in delivering a private transport to anyone with just one touch: Uber. The American technology company has its partners to work with and assures it will surprise the world in a few years.

When the taxis are ready, passengers will be allowed to ask for a drone-driver by an app, just like Uber.

“Implementation would see you using your smartphone, having an app, and ordering a Volocopter to the next voloport near you. The volocopter would come and autonomously pick you up and take you to your destination,” CEO Florian Reuter said. “It already is capable of flying based on GPS tracks today, and we will implement full sense capability, also dealing with unknown obstacles on the way.”

Source: Reuters