No it’s not April 1st, the Roads & Transport Authority of Dubai (RTA) is actually in the final stages of testing an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) capable of carrying a human.
The test flights, the first of their kind in the world, have been done in collaboration with the Chinese EHANG Company, which manufactured the autonomous ‘drones’ capable of carrying a passenger.
The RTA unveiled the AAV in Dubai and an official at Dubai Cruise Terminal informs Cruise Arabia & Africa that the city’s primary cruise port is one of the first locations earmarked for full operation of the service.
“The trial run of the first AAV is part of the Dubai Self-driving Transport Strategy aimed at transforming 25% of total individual trips in Dubai into Self-driving trips using various modes of transport by 2030,” says Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA.
“The RTA is making every effort to start the operation of the AAV in 2017,” he added.
The passenger simply climbs into the ‘drone’ and taps one of the pre-set destinations on a touchpad mounted in front of the seat. The AAV then autonomously takes off and navigates to those coordinates, where it then enters a hover and lands vertically.
The pre-set destinations being tested have yet to be announced, but will likely include the city’s major landmarks, including Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall, the Burj Al Arab heli pad, Dubai Airport and a select handful of hotels with landing facilities.
The futuristic AAV is also likely to be a popular tourist attraction in and of itself, with official operators able to offer sightseeing tours over the city at a fraction of the cost of a helicopter flight.
The AAV is fitted with eight propellers that are autonomously operated individually by the on-board computer, which means that if any of the propellers were to fail, the other seven would be able to safely navigate and land the craft.
“The AAV is fitted with numerous basic systems all in operation at the same time, though independently. In case of any malfunctioning in one of these systems, the standby system would be capable of controlling and safely steering the AAV to the programmed landing point,” explains Al Tayer.
The AAV is designed to fly for a maximum of 30 minutes at a maximum cruising speed of 160 km/h, but the standard cruise speed will be 100 km/h, giving it a range of at least 80-kilometres, enough to get from Dubai Cruise Terminal to any of the city’s major tourist attractions.