Dubai Begins Air Taxi Flight Tests

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Dubai took another step toward providing autonomous flying taxi service, when an unmanned Volocopter took off and flew a demo flight above the city on Monday. It was the “first-ever public flight of an autonomous urban air taxi,” according to Volocopter. “This establishes the feasibility and safety of airborne taxis as a means of public transportation.” The test was preceded by weeks of intense safety assessments of the aircraft, operations and the test site, the company said. The aircraft performed as expected despite the extreme climactic conditions. Dubai officials said they are working to establish the standards and specifications that must be met to operate the air taxis safely in Dubai, which will be the first such official standards in the world.

The Volocopters will be capable of autonomous operation, although a pilot may be required at first for taxi operations. When operating autonomously, passengers will be able to book a flight using an app, then enter a booking reference number on an interactive screen in the cabin to initiate the flight. Dubai’s transit authority has appointed JDA, a U.S. company that specializes in the safety of air vehicles, to ensure the safety of the air taxi and oversee preparations for the first crewed flight. Transit officials said it will take “years” to develop rules and standards for air taxis, “during which all aspects of the operation and verification of all aspects of security and safety will be identified.”

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Comments (5)


Lemme see: some company with a drone of unstated capability and no stated advantages says it flew its drone over some part of Dubai with nobody in it, and called it an autonomous air taxi demonstration -- although it isn't clear how completely autonomous it really was.

Actually, nothing was clear.

The video merely showed a model of unspecified scale flying in what may have been the outskirts of Dubai, and it doesn't show either the actual takeoff or the actual landing, which means those critical transitions are probably not ready for public view. You can make your own assumptions. What's more, the video was part animated cartoon mixed with hazy flight scenes.

Meanwhile, Dubai is still working to establish operational standards and specifications, which Transit officials said would take "years." Time is apparently not of the essence.

I take it back. Something is clear. It's clear that nothing newsworthy in aviation happened in Dubai last Monday.

Meanwhile, the Kellett autogyro is poised to dominate aviation for decades........

Posted by: S. Lanchester | September 30, 2017 11:43 PM    Report this comment

Look, guys, you have got to quit treating everyone with a drone and a computer as a credible player in the future of aviation. These guys have bombed, and bombed badly. Obviously, no one is interested. Please now have the mercy to let them go away quietly.

If they magically show up someday with a firm $250M to develop and field a few air taxi devices, then would be a good time to mention them again. Until then, let the crickets reign.......

Posted by: S. Lanchester | October 3, 2017 2:31 AM    Report this comment

Who is this guy S. Lanchester? If you Google him with the word AvWeb added, he posts nothing but doubts. To me he is either a Luddite or someone with money at stake.

For me, the concept of computer-driven guidance and avoidance is a highly advantageous technology. The only problem is an electrical outage, which can be overcome (batteries, circuit design, etc.).

So why is this guy spreading negativity so broadly? I think he's a shill.

Posted by: Richard Tamir | October 4, 2017 5:35 AM    Report this comment

Hi, Richard. Nice of you to comment. I've been expecting complaints about my realistic outlook for quite a while. As far as I know, yours is the first.

To answer your question, I've had a decades-long career in the General Aviation aircraft industry doing advanced technology strategic planning, and designing airplanes that have gone into production on schedule, sold well, and made money. Meanwhile, I have watched $ Billions and many careers wasted by others chasing impractical or irrelevant aviation "breakthroughs" that came to nothing. Consequently, it seems a kindness to warn others of the breathless nonsense that too often makes the rounds as "progress" in aviation news.

In turn, I will ask you which of the ventures or technologies I've mentioned doubts about have ended with a successful GA product that made good on all its initial glowing promises, made its original schedule (or even its second or third schedule slide), made its original investors any money, or advanced the state of the art in a way that made any significant improvements in the cost or growth of personal aviation?

By the way, sometimes I'm even complimentary, as in my AVweb comments about Cirrus' pioneering parachute safety work. And you will not see anything from me to discourage the disciplined development of cockpit automation and autonomous aircraft. I have been a booster of these for 30 years, and have participated in a program that fully demonstrated autonomous capabilities in real light aircraft. That program got no aviation press, because it was company confidential work.

Autonomous aircraft with more capabilities than shown in this article have been around since the 1990s. Seriously, if as you say, "The only problem is an electrical outage," you would have seen these capabilities in certified airplanes long ago.

Finally, not to make too fine a point of it, but Google tells us that a shill is "an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others." That hardly matches your comments about my posts. Indeed, in this context, a shill would be an uncritical cheerleader for the blue sky aviation dreams that comes along.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | October 7, 2017 5:49 PM    Report this comment

Not a subject matter expert or industry veteran here, but I have a pilot's license and some degrees in physics and engineering. Following the evolution of GA is always exciting to me despite the less than incremental advancement of flying machines. For some reason a personal air transport vehicle has to be perfect in every way before it can even be considered useful: multiple redundant systems, "pilot proof", aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly ... If one of these things created and sold to buyers with pilot's licenses we could start to address the real barriers to personal flight. Like for example the waves of dirt and trash these things will blow around wherever they land. Or, how to avoid decapitating interested spectators. I played with and made airplanes powered by rubber bands as a kid. Kids with money and interested parents played with gas-powered RC toys. That's what we see in this video. I'll become excited when Tesla gives us a delivery date for PAV.

Posted by: Marc Curvin, MD | January 25, 2019 12:07 PM    Report this comment

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