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.”