It may come as no real surprise that the first place in the world where “an autonomous drone that can transport humans will start ferrying passengers” is Dubai. Long the home of innovative luxuries, and the location where the annual Big Boys Toys expo is held, it is a natural location to launch driverless passenger drones.
According to reports, the UAE’s Roads and Transport Authority has committed itself to sparing no efforts in order to successfully launch the EHang 184s by July of 2017.
What Is a Driverless Air Taxi?
The EHang 184 is a remarkable bit of technology and is designed carry one passenger and a single travel bag for journeys of 23 minutes or less. Already tested in Dubai, but officially launched in Las Vegas during the CES expo in 2016, it is manufactured by a Chinese firm and is modeled on the remote control quadcopters so popular with drone hobbyists around the globe.
It is able to carry up to 220 pounds of weight and its propellers actually fold when not in use, to enable parking in the average vehicle parking space. However, there is more to using this mode of transportation than ordering it with an app.
The manufacturer indicates that it requires two hours to be fully charged and will need a flight plan to be set into its navigation system. A passenger is going to have to issue both the “take off” and “land” commands using the onboard computer system. The drones will have a range of ten to 31 miles, and can reach speeds of up to 63 MPH.
In addition to input from passengers where departure and landing are concerned, flights will not, typically be direct. Instead, the drones will have to “hop from one set landing spot to another”. They are designed with plenty of fail safes, including automatically finding and landing in an appropriate location if there are any malfunctions. The drones are also designed to seek a safe landing space if disconnected from their networks.
Because they are networked devices many have expressed concerns about hacking, but the manufacturers claim that they communicate entirely through encrypted channels, limiting or even eliminating risks.
When to Look Up
Dubai is the first city in the world to have already experimented with the vehicles, while Las Vegas, NV has indicated it has plans to start testing. Though many countries are only beginning to determine just how to regulate the unmanned drones, the manufacturer indicates it is already working alongside many agencies.
If you are in Dubai at any time after July 2017, it is likely that you will see this amazing innovation in public transportation flying overhead.