Transport: Dubai Stages First Public Test of Drone Taxis

Dubai staged the first public test of its drone taxi service on Monday, offering a peek at what it might—or will—be like to commute by flying car, reports Bloomberg.

The self-piloting, electric Volocopter is less noisy and has a smaller physical and environmental footprint than a traditional helicopter. Offering space for two passengers, the 6.5-foot-high copter is topped by a 22-foot-wide hoop studded with 18 rotors. In video of the test, the all-white drone rose, unoccupied, about 650 feet over the sand near Jumeirah Beach Park, flew itself for about five minutes, and then gently landed.

The flight was the latest step toward a major transportation shift for Dubai, which by 2030 aims to have 25 percent of local passenger trips take place in driverless vehicles. Dubai isn’t the most congested city—according to the Traffic Index released by navigation company TomTom NV in February, Dubai ranks No. 85 in the world for bad traffic—but its rulers are determined to create a hub for transportation innovation.

“Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai, in a statement.

Dubai had been working with Chinese drone maker EHang Inc., having announced in March that air-taxi pickups would start over the summer; that didn’t come to pass. The emirate’s Road and Transport Authority didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.