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Dubai to roll out pilotless flying taxi service

Dubai will soon have a fleet of flying taxis hovering its skies. Electrically powered driverless drones — named Ehang 184 are set to start picking up passengers in July this, according to Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

The one-seater passenger drones, small enough to fit a car parking space when folded up, have already been seen hovering above the sand dunes near the city’s airfield for test flights. The drones are made by Chinese company Ehang.

“The 184 provides a viable solution to the many challenges the transportation industry faces in a safe and energy-efficient way,” CNN quoted Ehang founder and CEO Huazhi Hu during the unveiling of the vehicle at the 2016 CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

While the exact details of the project’s logistics are yet to be revealed, Dubai’s RTA says the futuristic venture is part of a strategy to have self-driving vehicles (of all kinds) account for a quarter of journeys made in Dubai, by 2030.

“This project supports Dubai’s government’s direction to become the smartest city in the world,” H.E. Mattar Al Tayer, director general of RTA, said in an email to CNN.

He adds that the drones, which he refers to as Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (AAV), are an easy-to-use innovation that can transport up to 100 kilograms — enough for one person and a suitcase — on a pre-programmed route through the city.

“The passenger just needs to pick the destination through a smart screen [once inside the vehicle] and the AAV takes care of the rest.”

Powered by eight propellers, Ehang says the 184 (which stands for one person, eight propellers, four arms) will cruise at around 100 kilometers per hour.
The routes will be programed by a ground control center through an encrypted 4G network which will monitor the flight.