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Dubai Launches Trial of Flying Taxi | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A handout image provided by United Arab Emirates News Agency (WAM) on September 25, 2017 shows a two-seater “hover taxi” flying in a “concept” flight in Dubai. AFP PHOTO

Dubai, London- As part of an ambitious plan adopted by the Emirati city, Dubai staged a test flight on Monday for what it said would soon be the world’s first drone taxi service.

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. During its trial flight, the helicopter was clear of passengers.

Meant to fly without remote control guidance and with a maximum flight duration of 30 minutes, it comes with plenty of fail-safes in case of trouble: back-up 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 that is a cross between a driverless electric car and a short-haul, vertical takeoff-and-landing aircraft.

These include aerospace giant Airbus, which aims to put a self-piloting taxi in the air by 2020; Kitty Hawk, a company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page; and Uber, which is working with partners on its own flying taxi strategy.

Alexander Zosel, Volocopter’s co-founder and chief innovation officer, said in an interview with Reuters ahead of the Dubai trial: “We only go public when we can show something that flies. We show facts, not visions.”

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

The UAE has sought to distinguish itself in a region mired in war and strife as a high-tech, forward-looking society.