New aircraft rebranded the Autonomous Air Taxi.
Dubai officials say they want theirs to become the world’s smartest city. A project certain to help reach that goal is developing a fleet of autonomous vehicles to handle a quarter of all passenger transport by 2030.
Ignoring critics who scoffed at the claim earlier this year that the German-designed Volocopter, recently renamed the autonomous aerial taxi, would begin testing a two-place vehicle in Dubai this year, the government of that Middle Eastern city released a video shot during the first flight of the electric aircraft.
The short flight conducted without passengers near the Jumeirah Beach Park was attended by Dubai’s Crown Prince HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The successful flight kicked off a testing regime expected to consume another five years before regular AAT service is expected to begin.
The testing period in Dubai will also allow time to develop laws and policies governing certification of the aircraft and AAT operations, defining aerial routes and corridors, designing and locating take-off and landing points. Standards for official operators of AAT services in Dubai will also be created, as will identifying the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, while specifying security and safety standards for service.
The Volocopter tested in Dubai was powered by 18 individual rotors that offer a 30-minute range at 60 mph without the need for a battery recharge. A spokesman for Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority said the “AAT is also fitted with optional emergency parachutes, nine independent battery systems, a battery quick-charge and plug-in system, which takes two hours to reach full charge in the prototype version, a time that will be significantly reduced in the production version.”