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Watch: First flight of Dubai’s self-flying taxi

Dubai: Dubai made aviation history on Monday afternoon with the first “proof of concept flight” of its new two-seater, self-flying taxi in an aerial test in Jumeirah Beach Resisdence area, said officials.

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai witnessed the maiden flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT), according to a statement by Dubai Government Media Office.

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The self-flying taxi will “be used for the world’s first self-flying taxi service set to be introduced by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA),” said the statement, noting that the aerial taxi will shuttle passengers across the city without a pilot.

Built by Volocopter, a German specialty manufacturer of autonomous air vehicles, the aircraft’s aerial test comes seven months after plans for a self-flying taxi were unveiled at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Word of Dubai’s leap into the future of automated aerial taxis made headlines around the world at the February summit.

“After the remarkable success of the first driverless metro in the region, we are glad to witness today the test flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi,” said Shaikh Hamdan in a statement. “This is another testament to our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community and advance the prosperity and happiness of society.”

“Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” he said.

Michael Rudolph, Head, Aviation Regulations and Safety, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, was on hand for the special flight and told Gulf News shortly afterward that the test flight was a world first in the history of aviation.

“This is a something that has never been done before. We are so happy that this happened in Dubai. From a DCAA perspective, this proof-of-concept flight makes history and we are proud to be a support entity,” Rudolph said.

Rudolph said the test was monitored by a new drone tracking system newly implemented by the DCAA to ensure flight safety at all times in Dubai airspace.

Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Emirates Group; Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future; and Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, Minister of Economy and Chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority also attended the test flight.

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA said in a statement that the taxi is advanced for maximum safety.

The taxi, Mattar said, “has a variety of unique features that include top security and safety standards, and multiple redundancies in all critical components such as propellers, motors, power source, electronics and flight controls. It is also fitted with optional emergency parachutes, nine independent battery systems, and a battery quick-charge and plug-in system, which takes two hours to reach full charge in the prototype version, a time that will be significantly reduced in the production version.”

Powered by clean electricity and featuring low noise levels, the AAT is an environmentally-friendly vehicle.

Its current prototype version has a maximum flight time of approximately 30 minutes at a cruise speed of 50 km/h, and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h. All these features will evolve in the production vehicles.

The AAT measures about two meters in height, and the diameter of the rotor rim, including propellers, is just over seven meters.

The taxi will be integrated with public transport systems such as the Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, public buses, marine transit modes and taxis.

The briefing also covered the procedures for making the AAT service available to the public through a smart mobility app. The app will allow customers to book flights, receive booking reference details and track the route of the AAT.

Over the next five years, the RTA will collaborate with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that the operational requirements for implementing AAT services are put in place.

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