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The city of Dubai (DXB) doesn’t have a ton of traffic, and its city planners intend to keep it that way. The first public test of the city’s pilotless flying taxi took place September 25 at Jumeirah Beach Park on the outskirts of the United Arab Emirates’ largest city. The two-passenger drone, called a Volocopter, flew unoccupied for about five minutes at a height of roughly 650 feet. Video of the test shows the aircraft set against the Dubai skyline:

The electric Volocopter is an vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle that can fly for roughly 30 minutes on a two-hour charge. The German company that designed the Volocopter claims that the aircraft’s 18 rotors are engineered to operate in a narrow frequency band so that together, they only sound as loud as two rotors — a key consideration for a flying vehicle intended for intercity use.

The Volocopter test is just Dubai’s latest attempt to encourage transportation innovation. Last year, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority signed an agreement with Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One to connect the UAE cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi with a hyperloop vacuum system that transports travelers through tubes at high speeds.

“Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, in a statement.

The first and second versions of the Volocopter. Photo by N. Kazakov/Volocopter.
The first and second versions of the Volocopter. Photo by N. Kazakov/Volocopter.

The Volocopter is just one of several VTOLs under development around the world. A3, the Silicon Valley-based division of Airbus, has stated it hopes to have a single-person flying car in production within the next four years. DeLorean Aerospace — run by the nephew of the man who created the iconic DeLorean, one of the best-known fictional flying cars from Back to the Future — has proposed a two-seat personal air transport vehicle called the DR-7 to roll out in the next five years. Last month, the start-up company Passenger Drone made test flights of its two-seat prototype with actual human passengers aboard.

As far as the Volocopter itself, its manufacturer aims to have the aircraft on the market by 2018, but you’ll likely still have to wait a bit before boarding a pilotless taxi. While Dubai’s goal is to have 25% of its local passenger trips take place in driverless vehicles by 2030, there is still much to do in terms of setting regulations, safety standards and other logistics — so don’t delete those Uber or Lyft apps just yet.

H/T: National Post

Featured image by Nikolay Kazakov, Karlsruhe/Volocopter.

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