The world’s first drone taxi to hit Dubai?

Drone Magazine Technical Editor Andy Willmott investigates the Ehang 184 one-person drone taxi, and reckons it should carry a parachute.

Recently it was announced that in Dubai you will soon be able to take a pilot-less taxi drone from A to B. Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Matter al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency said “I am glad to inform you that hopefully we will be able to have these drones available starting from July 2017”.

I don’t know about you, but I won’t be at the front of the line to take a ride. I mean I love drones, but we are in a world where we are still struggling to integrate autonomous drones in our cities to deliver pizzas whilst navigating flight zones and safely avoiding other aircraft and obstacles.

To have them carry live people through a major city with skyscrapers and helicopters everywhere by mid this year seems ambitious and a little scary to me.

Dubai does indeed like to push the boundaries with world firsts, and it has a whole lot of money to play with, so if anyone is going to make this vision of the future a reality, it is going to be Dubai.

A lot of people will be watching to see how they make this work from a logistics and safety point of view. It may very well become a model for the rest of the world.

The drone they are talking about was first shown to the world at CES in January 2016. It is the Ehang 184, produced by Chinese company Ehang and was in development for 3 years before its launch.

With a range of 40-50 kilometres and about 30 minutes of flight time, it can carry about 100kg and has a luggage compartment for a small suitcase. It can only carry 1 passenger, and hopefully has room for a parachute.

Monitored by a command centre, a passenger will be able to call a drone taxi with an app, like Uber, and use another app inside the drone to set your destination and hit GO.

Most of the videos I have seen of the Ehang 184 have involved a lot of CGI graphics and no-one in the passenger seat of real life footage. So I am a little sceptical they can pull this all off in the next few months, but I will be eagerly watching.

Stay tuned for more updates and check out the videos below in the meantime. The one on how they developed the Ehang 184 is particularly interesting.

Dubai drone taxi promo:

This is an interesting video by Ehang of how they developed the Ehang 184:

Here is an interview with Derrick Xiong, CO-Founder of Ehang at CES2017: