- UAE embraces the future with the world’s first concept flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi (Volocopter)
HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, attended the maiden concept flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT), a vehicle that will be used for the world’s first self-flying taxi service set to be introduced by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA).
The two-seater AAT, capable of transporting people without human intervention or a pilot, has been supplied by Volocopter, a Germany-based specialist manufacturer of autonomous air vehicles. The test flight was held at a location near the Jumeirah Beach Park.
“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 HH Sheikh Hamdan. “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.”
He further said that adopting advanced innovative technologies and applications that help to enhance services for the community is key to topping global competitiveness rankings.
“Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” he added
His Highness stressed the importance of the transportation sector, which he said is a vital driver of the development process and an indicator of the level of advancement of the nation. He hailed the remarkable progress achieved in this sector through a number of landmark projects that have maintained the highest international standards while remaining true to the principles of environmental sustainability.
HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Emirates Group; HE Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future; and HE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy and Chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority also attended the test flight.
HE Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA said: “The Autonomous Air Taxi 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.
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan was briefed about the integration of the AAT 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. These requirements include developing laws and policies governing certification of the aircraft and AAT operations at an Emirate and Federal level, defining aerial routes and corridors, designing and locating take-off and landing points, setting standards for official operators of AAT services in Dubai, identifying the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, and specifying security and safety standards for the AAT.
Al Tayer revealed that the RTA has appointed US-based JDA Aviation Company, an autonomous air-vehicle safety specialist, to oversee preparations for AAT flights and manage safety. The trial operations and the process of developing legislation for this type of vehicles will stretch across five years, during which comprehensive operational, security and safety measures will be put in place, noted Al Tayer.
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan pressed the operation button to launch the first AAT and watched its flight in the sky. He also watched aerial shots transmitted by the airborne taxi on monitors, and reviewed the process that the RTA will follow to track the flight of the AAT. His Highness then posed for photos with the project teams from the RTA and Volocopter.
Commenting on the event, Al Tayer said, “The trial run of the AAT reflects the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform Dubai into the world’s smartest city. It is also part of the RTA's efforts to introduce autonomous transportation services after conducting rigorous tests for these vehicles in Dubai’s climatic conditions. The move also reflects the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy’s target for autonomous transport to account for a quarter of total journeys in Dubai by 2030.”
Al Tayer commended the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority’s efforts to develop a legislative and operational structure as well as specifications and standards for operators of such vehicles in the Emirate. He praised the two organisations for their efforts to put comprehensive legislation in place before the official start of commercial AAT operations. Such a legislative and operational structure will be the first of its kind worldwide.