Dubai Plans To Launch Autonomous Flying Taxi

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Just over a year after EHang’s passenger-carrying autonomous drone was unveiled in Las Vegas, officials in Dubai said this week they plan to provide flights to the public in the aircraft by this summer. “The AAV [autonomous aerial vehicle] on display at the World Government Summit is not just a model but it has really flown in Dubai skies,” said Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, at the summit in Dubai on Monday. “RTA will spare no effort to launch the AAV in July 2017.” The EHang, built in China, can carry one passenger for up to 30 minutes at a speed of about 62 mph. The passenger will be able to select a destination on a tablet in the cockpit, and the aircraft will autonomously fly there, while being monitored by controllers at a remote control center, the RTA said in a statement.

The EHang can carry one passenger weighing up to 220 pounds, plus a small suitcase, according to the RTA’s video (below). The vehicle was unveiled in Las Vegas early last year. Eight propellers arrayed on four arms power the aircraft. Emergency systems will direct the drone to land if there’s a malfunction, or allow the passenger to command a landing if a problem arises, the company said. The aircraft has been undergoing testing at Nevada’s Institute for Autonomous Systems, which is an FAA-designated UAS test site.

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Comments (5)

These are evidently some very smart people. So I was wondering - it flies for 30 min and you arrive safely. Do you then plug in a charger and charge the batteries so it can fly back home in an hour or 2?

Posted by: Don Lineback | February 15, 2017 6:56 AM    Report this comment

Hmmm. How many ways can you say, "Nope... nada... ain't gonna happen. No way you're ever getting me into something like that."

And I ain't all too keen on them "autonomous" cars, neither.

Posted by: Michael Dean | February 15, 2017 8:13 AM    Report this comment

This approach to a pilotless but passenger carrying drone type vehicle is interesting as it provides a window of things to come in the not-to-distant future. Looks like a Rich Guy commute to Manhattan setup to me.

What I do NOT like; however, is their 4-point thrust design. This vehicle has 8 propellers in dual pods suspended equidistant at 4 points around the vehicle. But what happens when you lose a prop? A not unheard of possibility!

Some hobby drones have demonstrated Fail-Safe technology (software) in their on-board computers. This software can quickly and effectively deactivate the opposite pod thrust, using its power to only maintain stability. With a 4-point thrust design, only 1/2 of total power would be available to sustain flight following a prop failure. Even with fail-safe software, there is no way that this design could remain airborne on 1/2 power and the descent rate would probably lead to an un-survivable crash.

A 6 or 8 power pod design would offer a much higher degree of safety and redundancy after a prop/motor/actuator failure, as well as a lesser degree of initial upset and quicker recovery following such an event.

Posted by: jerry king | February 15, 2017 9:29 AM    Report this comment

To address Jerry King's prop loss question, the EHang has eight motors, two on each pod and each driving an independent propeller. If it loses one prop or motor, the designers say that the other one will provide stability for a safe landing. At least that is the theory.

As far as practicality is concerned, I agree that it looks like a rich guy commuter toy. People who envision widespread use of these vehicles have many many obstacles to overcome. To me, the main one is where will they all land and park in a crowded downtown area of a city? There are only so many flat roofed buildings and so much available space for parking. Plus, the building owners would have to install charging stations and perhaps assign parking spots. At 62 mph, a trip into downtown for me would take roughly 23 minutes, so the vehicle would need to recharge before a return trip. Has to have someplace to recharge.

Posted by: John McNamee | February 17, 2017 11:57 AM    Report this comment

We have already developed a scale prototype electrically operated two passenger autonomous vtol plane that can stay in the air for hours and does not need to stop for recharging. Currently it uses regular gasoline to operate a generator but we are in the process of making a prototype that will use fuel cells and operate on hydrogen.
Miles Garnett, President, Gestalt Aeronauticals, Ltd.

Posted by: Miles Garnett | March 25, 2017 6:58 PM    Report this comment

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