If there is one place on Earth that seems set to embrace audacious transport solutions, then that place is Dubai. Already with upcoming flying taxi trials and plans for a supersonic Hyperloop network on the table, the city will soon see an 18-rotor electric "Volocopter" take flight as part of its first real-world test run.
We've followed the progress of the Volocopter since its first-ever launch in Germany in 2013. In the time since, its creators have conducted hundreds of unmanned test flights and even jumped into the cockpit themselves. They have also introduced a newer version dubbed the Volocopter 2. But kind of like a hoverboard or a flying car, you always got the impression that it would be a while before we saw this thing in the real world.
And then along comes Dubai, with its robotic policemen and firefighters that wear jetpacks. The local transport authority revealed earlier in February that it would be trialling the Ehang personal taxi drone around midway through this year, and now it seems they are placing more eggs in the aerial mobility basket.
The Volocopter is an all-electric aircraft that can autonomously carry two passengers from point A to point B without a pilot. Powered by nine swappable batteries, it lifts off and lands vertically, can hover in the air if need be, and packs a parachute in case of emergency. It can fly for around 30 minutes at a time with a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
For its purposes, Dubai is referring to it as the Autonomous Air Taxi, and will begin trial operations in the fourth quarter of this year. By the year 2030, it plans to have 25 percent of all passenger travel handled by autonomous vehicles. The Volocopter trial will run for five years.