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Pilot test of pilotless taxi takes off in Dubai

Updated: 2017-09-27 07:07

Pilot test of pilotless taxi takes off in Dubai

Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed sits in the prototype flying taxi that was tested unmanned on Monday. [Photo/Agencies]

Dubai has showcased a flight for what it said would soon be the world's first drone taxi service under an ambitious plan to lead the Arab world in innovation.

The flying taxi developed by German drone firm Volocopter resembles a small, two-seater helicopter cabin topped by a wide hoop studded with 18 propellers.

It was unmanned for its test flight on Monday.

"It is environment-friendly, as it is powered by clean electricity, and it has very little noise.

It has a maximum flight time of approximately 30 minutes at a speed of 50 km/h, and a maximum air speed of 100 km/h," according to Dubai's Road and Transport Authority.

It also comes with fail-safes like backup batteries, rotors and, for a worst-case scenario, a couple of parachutes.

Volocopter is in a race with more than a dozen well-funded European and US firms, each with its own science fiction-inspired vision for creating a new form of urban transport.

These include aerospace giant Airbus, which aims to put a self-piloting taxi in the air by 2020; Kitty Hawk, a startup company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page; and Uber.

Volocopter performed its maiden test run in a ceremony staged for Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.

The UAE has sought to distinguish itself as a high-tech, forward-looking society. It plans to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, the Arab world's first space mission.


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