We have flying cars! Well, we have people-carrying drones. The world’s first self-flying taxi took off on its maiden voyage last month in Dubai, using 18 rotors to hover some 650 feet of the ground. The unmanned Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT) will one day be hailed via a public smartphone app and carry passengers on flights of up to 30 minutes at cruising speeds of roughly 30 miles an hour.
Built by the German company Volocopter, the AAT is basically a two-seat helicopter cockpit attached to a circular frame supporting its 18 rotors. It stands about six and a half feet tall and is entirely electrically powered by nine batteries, though fully charging each battery currently takes about 2 hours. Nervous Nellies will be glad to learn that the drone taxi is also outfitted with emergency parachutes.
Over the next five years, Dubai’s Road and Transit Authority will work with aviation regulators to create policies and laws for the taxi service and its ilk, while the U.S. company JDA Aviation conducts taxi trial runs and safety measures. Dubai plans for autonomous vehicles to conduct a quarter of its total trips by 2030.