Say What? Drone Taxis Arrive in Dubai this Summer
BY Alan Perlman20 February 2017
Last week we wrote about Ehang’s record-breaking light show in Guangzhou, China, in which 1,000 drones were used in a drone swarm.
The previous record-holder was Intel, with a swarm of 500 drones, and Lady Gaga’s recent halftime performance at the Super Bowl used 300 of Intel’s drones, popularizing the drone swarm right before Ehang’s record-breaking show.
But now Ehang is making headlines for a different reason.
Recently, right on the heels of breaking the Guinness world record for the Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously, Ehang announced plans to introduce their 184 single-passenger quadcopters in Dubai this summer for actual use.
Rollout of the Ehang 184 in Dubai
Dubai authorities have announced that they will be introducing single-passenger quadcopters to city transportation systems this July, which will ferry elite passengers around the city through automated flight routes.
In a statement, Mattar al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency, described plans to have the quadcopters providing transportation at the World Government Summit.
“This is not only a model. We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”
– Mattar al-Tayer, Head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency
Since they hold only one person, are incredibly expensive (Ehang lists the 184 at $200-$300K per drone), and only have a range of 31 miles and a battery life of 23 minutes, these drones will most likely be reserved only for elite visitors traveling relatively short distances. Which means that regular ground transportation will certainly continue, but it also means that real, actual drone taxis will be in use for the first time ever.
Dubai, City of the Future
Known as a city of futuristic technology, Dubai is not an unlikely location for the rollout of the Ehang 184.
Currently, a box-shaped driverless vehicle called the EZ10, built by France’s EasyMile, cruises Dubai’s streets, helping to make the Sheikh’s goal of 25 percent driverless transportation a reality.
Also, Dubai officials recently announced plans to build a hyperloop train (pictured below), which is a super-fast train first proposed by Elon Musk to “move people and things at airline speeds for the cost of a bus ticket.” The train works by “levitating pods powered by electricity and magnetism that hurtle through low-friction pipes at a top speed of 760 mph,” which sounds pretty darn futuristic to us.
The hyperloop has been discussed as a means of connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, but its development in California has been mired in setbacks.
Dubai is also known as the site of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, which was made world famous by a terrifying scene in the movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (which we included below, because it’s just too cool not to share).
As if all of this isn’t enough, Dubai is home to completely manufactured islands. Seriously—they have islands shaped like palm fronds that are entirely man-made.
You really have to see these islands to understand just how far out they are:
About Ehang’s 184 Drone
The Ehang 184 is an autonomous drone created specifically to transport people by air that was first unveiled at CES in 2016.
The 184 is the first fully electric autonomous aerial vehicle capable of carrying one passenger weighing up to 220 pounds over short distances, has enough room for a small suitcase, and will be controlled through 4G mobile Internet. (Yikes! Hope you have a good connection.)
- Four arms
- Eight rotors
- Five feet tall
- Weighs 440 pounds
- Gull-wing doors for passengers, which also fold up to fit in tight spaces for parking
- Fits one passenger
- Trunk for luggage
- Battery takes 2-4 hours to charge, lasts 23 minutes
- Can reach speeds of 62 miles an hour
Taxi Drones in the U.S.
Although regulations have a long ways to go before allowing taxi drones to operate commercially in the U.S., the state of Nevada has already cleared Ehang to test the 184.
Ehang has partnered with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (Goed) to put the 184 through testing and regulatory approval.
“The State of Nevada, through NIAS, will help guide Ehang through the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulatory process with the ultimate goal of achieving safe flight.”
– Tom Wilczek, Goed’s aerospace and defence specialist
The days when taxi drones are actually transporting people through U.S. skies are a long ways away, but the rollout in Dubai this summer may lead to new data and approaches that could fast track the process.
But who knows? Right now, we’re just excited to see more videos of taxi drones actually in use in Dubai.