Volocopter Passenger Drone Successfully Takes Dubai’s Crown Prince on 5-Minute Flight

Daimler-backed autonomous passenger drone company Volocopter took Dubai's Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed on a 200-meter-high flight on Monday.

The eye in the sky is well and alive in Dubai. Just yesterday, German company Volocopter, funded by automaker Daimler, successfully tested its flying taxi prototype by transporting Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed 200 meters into the air for five entire minutes.

Dubai has been a hotspot for companies like Nokia and Uber to test their unmanned aerial vehicles and air traffic management systems. Even Dubai’s own police force has been tinkering with how to best implement drones into law enforcement, together with Singapore company OTSAW. In July, we reported on the Dubai’s plans for standardizing drone delivery by March of 2018

Of course, that’s a pretty short trip, but a company testing its flying taxi service, successfully, with actual royalty from the region, is a substantial step forward in actually pulling this flying taxi service closer to reality.

According to Engadget, the automated electric drone takes off and lands like your standard consumer drone: vertically, like a helicopter would. This, of course, allows it to land in tight spaces, as opposed to requiring a runway. The goal is to provide 30-minute flights in Dubai, and securing one as easily as somebody hails a cab. Through your smartphone, of course. Here’s the Volocopter being presented at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show a few weeks ago.

The Volocopter at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show, Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Initially, you’ll have to wait at designated “Voloports.” In the future, however, it’s entirely feasible that you’d be able to order a flying cab to pick you up from home. That is, after all, the premise of this flying taxi dream we’ve collectively envisioned for so long. 

Reportedly, these drones come equipped with extra batteries, rotors, and parachutes, which should make you feel comfortable enough to trust in their safety. I’m not sure I’d be willing to be a test-bunny quite so early, but if Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed felt safe enough, maybe I should, too. According to Vice, he seemed impressed and confident in prospects for the future regarding this mode of transport.

“After the remarkable success of the first driverless metro in the region, we are glad to witness today the test flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi,” said the Crown Prince. “This is another testament to our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community and advance the prosperity and happiness of society.” 

Let’s have a look at the Crown Prince himself at the helm of one of these autonomous air taxis, shall we?

Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed in a ‘Volocopter’., Reuters/Satish Kumar

CEO of Volocopter, Florian Reuter, claims that the current model is capable of flying based on GPS tracks, and that the company aims to “implement full sense capability” moving forward. This would allow for sophisticated obstacle avoidance and anti-collision measures to be in place, further strengthening the argument for safety.

Of course, we’re still in the early stages of full implementation here. Monday seems to have been a great photo-op and a ringing endorsement by a local authority, as well as some reassuring evidence that this thing actually works, in the form of a short test flight. But there’s still a ways to go here, and we’ll just have to keep dreaming for now. Who knows, the next time you visit Dubai, you might be able to take an aerial cab to the mall.