Dubai’s vision of transporting residents via flying taxis could become a reality sooner than expected, after Chinese startup EHang told Bloomberg it aims to roll out the drone-style cars in the emirate as early as 2018.
The company is also eyeing Saudi Arabia as a potential market, it was reported.
EHang has already developed a one-passenger drone and is now working on a larger two-seater model that is currently being tested at the company’s headquarters, located at a disused theme park in Guangzhou, southern China.
The E-184 drone, which is powered by four propellers, has a cruising speed of up to 100 kilometres per hour and a flight time of up to 25 minutes before the battery must be recharged.
Passengers in the fully-automated drones select a pre-programmed flight path to reach their destination then sit back and enjoy the view.
The company hopes to roll out the taxi drones in Dubai as early as next year, subject to regulatory approval. “We will start mass production of our passenger drones at the beginning of next year,” EHang CEO Hu Huazhi told Bloomberg TV. “We also plan to install fully automated production lines to enlarge manufacturing capacity in 2018.”
In addition, the company plans to embark on an ambitious mass production plan to reach markets in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and several European cities.
In February, EHang announced its partnership with Dubai’s RTA at the World Government Summit with the shared aim of developing the world’s most intelligent transport system. HE Mattar Al Tayer said at the time of the announcement that the authority would make “every effort to start the operation of the autonomous aerial vehicle in July 2017.”
On its website, EHang describes the E-184 as “the safest, smartest and eco-friendly low-altitude autonomous aerial vehicle.”
Powered by electricity, it is made with 100-percent green technology and is designed to land immediately at the closest possible location in case of malfunction.