The first flying taxis will soon take off in Dubai

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The Emir of Dubai has announced that in three years’ time, residents and tourists will be able to travel between the four fixed stations in the city by air taxi. The 3.5 million-strong metropolis will initially have pilots driving the eVTOLs, and now it looks like a US company’s solution will be systematised.

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced on Sunday on Twitter that he would relaunch the city’s air taxi programme. The promotional video features a six-rotor eVTOL vehicle manufactured by Joby Aviation of the US.

The metropolis has repeatedly promised the introduction of flying taxis since 2017, but has not always provided details.

However, this year’s announcement is a departure from previous ones, as more concrete details about the project have been revealed. The plan is for the vehicles to take to the skies from 2026, with four airports in Dubai: at Palm Jumeirah Island, Dubai Airport, the Marina luxury residential area and a downtown site. Each location will have two launch stations and four electric charging points, Bloomberg reports. They also said they will price their rates at the same level as rental limousines.

The minimum base fare for Dubai taxis is around $3.25 and they charge half a dollar per kilometre. Limousines are 30 percent more expensive. The authorities are planning to start with piloted eVTOLs, but will test driverless solutions in the future. An official from the Dubai Transport Authority told the local press that the plan is in its early stages and no agreement has been signed with any company.

The piloted Joby prototype can fly more than 240 kilometres before needing to be recharged, which would give it plenty of coverage of the city and even reach Abu Dhabi. It takes off and lands vertically, with its rotors tilting forward in flight, and has a maximum speed of 320 km/h.

Opening up the skies to flying taxis would alleviate traffic problems in the city of 3.5 million people, which attracts tourists from all over the world and is a financial and commercial hub, and as such is regularly congested. VTOL vehicles can take off and land locally without a runway, and helicopters can also be dispatched.

The technology is still in its infancy, but more futuristic devices are being introduced, and it is predicted that flying cars and motorbikes could proliferate after 2030, but until then only the richest can afford them. However, taxis could be available to the general public.

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