Passenger-carrying drone to fly in Dubai
By Jon Gambrell, Associated Press
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Up, up and away: Dubai hopes to have a passenger-carrying drone regularly buzzing through the skyline of this futuristic city-state in July.
The arrival of the Chinesemade EHang 184 — which already has had its flying debut over Dubai’s iconic, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab skyscraper hotel — comes as the Emirati city also has partnered with other cutting-edge technology companies, including Hyperloop One.
The question is whether the egg-shaped, four-legged craft will really take off as a transportation alternative in this car-clogged city already home to the world’s longest driverless metro line.
Mattar al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency, announced plans to have the craft regularly flying at the World Government Summit. Before his remarks on Monday, most treated the fourlegged, eight-propeller craft as just another curiosity at an event that views itself as a desert Davos.
“This is not only a model,” al-Tayer said. “We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.” The craft can carry a passenger weighing up to 220 pounds and a small suitcase. After buckling into its race-car-style seat, the craft’s sole passenger selects a destination on a touch-screen pad in front of the seat and the drone flies there automatically.
The drone, which has a battery allowing for a half-hour flight time and a range of up to 31 miles, will be monitored remotely by a control room on the ground. It has a top speed of 100 mph, but authorities say it will be operated typically at 62 mph.
Al-Tayer said the drone would begin regular operations in July. He did not elaborate.
The Road and Transportation Agency later issued a statement saying the drone had been examined by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and was controlled through 4G mobile internet.