For Architectural Digest, by Nick Mafi.
Dubai is a city that loves superlatives: world’s tallest skyscraper (Burj Khalifa), world’s largest indoor ski resort (Ski Dubai), or world’s fastest police force (who drive Bugatti Veyrons), to name a few. Now, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates will carry the distinction of yet another record: the world’s most extreme taxi ride.
It was recently announced that by the summer of 2017, Dubai will be the first location in the world to allow passenger-carrying drone taxis. The company responsible for this futuristic innovation is EHang, a Guangzhou-based firm that first made waves at CES 2016 with a personal drone that could fly 11,000 feet without the necessity of a pilot manning the controls. EHang’s 184 model, which can carry up to 255 pounds of weight (with enough room for an adult and one small carry-on), were recently ordered by local authorities in Dubai.
The way the technology works is that, once seated in the EHang 184, passengers will use a mobile application to enter their desired GPS destination and then press a launch button. From there, the 440-pound drone will lift off and begin flying with a top speed of 100 miles per hour, and a top distance of roughly 31 miles on a single charge. Naturally, safety is a major concern in any motor vehicle, let along a self-flying drone taxi. Yet EHang says that its drone will be an extremely safe ride. The flying machine is programed with multiple emergency plans that, in theory, have the ability to safely fly its passenger to the nearest landing location in the event of an emergency.
The Chinese drones are due to be delivered in July and are said to be part of a grand strategy that aims to see roughly one fourth of all Dubai’s traffic become driverless by 2030. And the company is not wasting any time to reach that ambitious goal: Unlike most futuristic models, this one will be off the ground in a few months. Indeed, test flights are reportedly ongoing in Dubai this month.
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