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Passenger-carrying drone to start flying in Dubai

Science & Tech

Dubai hopes to have a passenger-carrying drone regularly buzzing through the skyline of this futuristic city-state in July.

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The arrival of the Chinese-made EHang 184 – which already has had its flying debut over Dubai’s iconic, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab skyscraper hotel – comes as the Emirati city has partnered with other cutting-edge technology companies, including Hyperloop One.

The question is whether the egg-shaped, four-legged craft will really take off as a transportation alternative in this car-clogged city already home to the world’s longest driverless metro line.

Mattar al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency, announced plans to have the craft regularly flying at the World Government Summit. Before his remarks on Monday, most treated the four-legged, eight-propeller craft as just another curiosity.

“This is not only a model,” al-Tayer said. “We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”

The craft can carry a passenger weighing up to 100 kilograms and a small suitcase. After buckling into its race-car-style seat, the craft’s sole passenger selects a destination on a touch-screen pad in front of the seat and the drone flies there automatically.

The drone, which has a battery allowing for a half-hour flight time and a range of up to 50 kilometres, will be monitored remotely by a control room on the ground. It has a top speed of 160 kph, but authorities say it will be operated typically at 100 kph.

Al-Tayer said the drone would begin regular operations in July. He did not elaborate.

The Road and Transportation Agency later issued a statement saying the drone had been examined by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and was controlled through 4G mobile internet.

– AP

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