The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has conducted the inaugural flight of its Autonomous Flying Taxi (AAT) in Dubai.

The AAT’s maiden flight was witnessed and launched by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

The two-seater vehicle, which is capable of transporting passengers without direct or remote human intervention, will be used by RTA to establish the world’s first self-flying taxi service.

Manufactured by Germany-based autonomous air vehicle manufacturer, Volocopter, the AAT’s inaugural flight took place near to Jumeirah Beach Park, according to UAE state news agency, WAM.

Video courtesy of WAM.

Commenting on the occasion, HH Sheikh Hamdan said: “After the remarkable success of the first driverless metro in the region, we are glad to witness the test flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi today.

“This is another testament of our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community, and advance the prosperity and happiness of the society.”

Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors at RTA, added: “The Autonomous Air Taxi has a variety of unique features that include top security and safety standards, besides multiple redundancies in all critical components, such as propellers, motors, power source, electronics, and flight controls.

“It is also fitted with optional emergency parachutes, nine independent battery systems, and a battery quick-charge and plug-in system, which takes two hours to reach full charge in the prototype version – a time that will be significantly reduced in the production version.”

Powered by clean electricity, and featuring low noise levels, the AAT is an environmentally friendly vehicle, according to RTA. Its current prototype version has a maximum flight time of approximately 30 minutes at a cruise speed of 50km/h, and a maximum airspeed of 100km/h.

The height of the vehicle is approximately 2m, and the diameter of its rotor rim, including propellers, is more than 7m.

Once implemented, RTA’s AATs will be integrated with the emirate’s existing public transport systems, including Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, public buses, and marine transit vehicles. They will be made available to the public through a smart mobility app, which will enable users to book flights, receive booking reference details, and track flying taxis’ routes.

During the next five years, RTA will collaborate with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) to set out the operational requirements for the implementation of AAT services. This process will involve the development of laws and policies to govern the certification of aircraft and AAT operations within the emirate and at a federal level. Aerial routes and corridors will also be defined, and take-off and landing points will be designed and located.

RTA has appointed US-based autonomous air-vehicle safety firm, JDA Aviation Company, to oversee preparations for, and manage the safety of, AAT flights.

“The trial run of the AAT reflects the directives of [HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai,] to transform Dubai into the world’s smartest city,” said Al Tayer.

“It is also part of the RTA’s efforts to introduce autonomous transport services after conducting rigorous tests for these vehicles in Dubai’s climatic conditions. The move reflects the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy’s target for autonomous transport to account for a quarter of the total journeys in Dubai by 2030,” he added.

In addition to HH Sheikh Hamdan and RTA’s Al Tayer, AAT’s maiden flight was witnessed by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of DCAA and Emirates Group; Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future; and Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy and chairman of the GCAA.