This July, get ready for flying taxis in Dubai

Starting July this year, the RTA says it will unveil the EHang 184 drone as a taxi in the city. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff.

February 22, 2017

In August last year, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, “'By 2030, 25 per cent of all transportation trips in Dubai will be smart and driverless. The strategy is projected to generate economic revenues and savings of up to AED 22 billion a year.”

It would seem that all it needed was for the prime minister to say the words. Last week, Elon Musk visited Dubai and announced that Tesla’s Model S and Model X will be available in the emirate this summer. In fact, you could head over to the Tesla online design studio and begin customising your own fully autonomous car right now.

We thought that announcement was the game-changing one that would propel Dubai’s chances of meeting that 2030 deadline. Turns out we were wrong. While the announcement was big, the city’s Road and Transport Authority had bigger plans in store.

The coolest thing to come out of the Consumer Electronics Show last year was Chinese company EHang’s human carrying autonomous drone. The EHang 184 drone is capable of carrying one passenger for 23 minutes at just under 100kmph. At the time, we thought we wouldn’t see it anytime soon.

We’re glad to say we were wrong about that too.

Earlier this month, Dubai's RTA announced yesterday that it tested an autonomous drone capable of carrying passengers above the city's infamous traffic jams. The best part of the announcement? The EHang 184 is scheduled to become part of Dubai’s taxi fleet by July this year.

"This is not only a model, we have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai's skies," said Mattar al-Tayer, head of Dubai's transportation agency. “I am glad to inform you that hopefully, we will be able to have these drones available, starting July 2017.”

EHang’s electric-powered taxi will be able to carry one person with luggage up to a maximum 100kg. To call for a flying taxi all passengers will need to do is enter their destination into an app. The drone then maps the route and transports the passenger to their destination. It can't fly directly but has to hop from one set landing spot to another. 

Imagine waving to all those people stuck driving their cars through traffic. Between this news and the prevailing weather here in the Middle East, summer can’t come any sooner.