Dubai aims to launch hover-taxi by July

February 13, 2017
The electric EHang 184 can travel at 100km per hour at 300m above the ground, the Dubai transport authority says

Dubai has tested a Chinese prototype of a self-driving hover-taxi, its transport authority said on Monday, with the aim of introducing the aerial vehicle in the emirate by July.

The test of the one-man electric vehicle comes as the city state in the United Arab Emirates seeks to ensure a quarter of its means of transport are self-driving by 2030.

The EHang 184 can travel on a programmed course at 100 kilometres an hour (60 mph) at an altitude of 300 metres (1,000 feet), the authority said in a statement.

A passenger simply needs to select a destination for the autonomous taxi to take off, fly the route and touch down in the chosen spot monitored by a ground control centre, it said.

The vehicle, made by Chinese drone manufacturer EHang, can recharge in two hours and make trips of up to 30 minutes.

"The autonomous aerial vehicle exhibited at the World Government Summit is not just a model," authority head Mattar al-Tayer said on Monday.

"We have already experimented (with) the vehicle in a flight in (the) Dubai sky," he said in English.

The authority was "making every effort to start the operation of the autonomous aerial vehicle in July 2017" to help reduce traffic congestion, Tayer said.

A model of the EHang 184 at the World Government Summit 2017 in Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah on February 13, 2017

The quadcopter is powered by eight propellers, the authority said.

It has highly accurate sensors and can resist extreme temperatures, it said. The emirate is known for its scorching summers.

In November, Dubai agreed a deal with US startup Hyperloop One to study the construction of a near-supersonic transport link to the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi.

Home to Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, Dubai is a leading tourist destination in the Gulf, attracting a record 14.9 million visitors in 2016.

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38 comments

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davejg77
1.8 / 5 (6) Feb 13, 2017
Two hour re-charge time for a 30 minute trip? Get an internal combustion engine.
gculpex
1 / 5 (6) Feb 13, 2017
...and at about 60mph, hardly seems worth it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (9) Feb 13, 2017
60mph direct line of sight is a lot faster than the same on the ground in cities (not that you're allowed to drive 60mph in cities - even if there wasn't any traffic).
antigoracle
Feb 13, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
bmsprague
Feb 13, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
rrrander
3 / 5 (2) Feb 14, 2017
Well, I wonder what the fatality rate would be compared to the average car accident?
david_king
Feb 14, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Feb 14, 2017
Well, I wonder what the fatality rate would be compared to the average car accident?

Depends on what kinds of accidents will be prevalent. Since these have no controls there shouldn't be any in-air collisions save with birds. At 60mph those would not pose a huge threat. High wind conditions may be an issue (not too prevalent in Dubai).

Let's say (worst case) fatality rate in case of an accident is 100%. If the accident rate is much lower than with cars because of central traffic control then the fatality count (per passenger kilometer) can still easily be lower.
Mayday
1 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2017
I've never understood the upside-down design of this vehicle. Placing the rotors high overhead with the centered payload hanging below would be both more stable and safer. I sure hope this taxi's doors stay locked until the rotors stop spinning!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Feb 14, 2017
...and at about 60mph, hardly seems worth it
Monorails never made much sense to me either. This is a tourist attraction.
ScottyB
5 / 5 (2) Feb 14, 2017
Don't forget people that this is the first iteration of this vehicle, as they develop the batteries and range will get better, much like electric cars, everything has to start somewhere.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (2) Feb 14, 2017
At 60mph those would not pose a huge threat
?? Imagine a goose hitting a rotor at 60mph. WTF?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Feb 14, 2017
?? Imagine a goose hitting a rotor at 60mph. WTF?

How's that different from some bird hitting a plane rotor (and remember: these have redundant rotors. Planes don't)

And yet...for some very strange reason. People still fly in planes. At much faster speeds. Weird, isn't it?

Jeez...once a month I unblock you and it's always total idiocy I find. Seems you're always brown-nosing after my posts and trying to fabricate some new inanity. Stop licking my boots.
jim_xanara
not rated yet Feb 14, 2017
Beats his tedious shaming of gkam. Like he doesn't do that well enough himself...

And remember, he's not Cpt. Grumpy.

Decent editing of late. Lots of nice blocks on antisciencegorilla.
EyeNStein
5 / 5 (2) Feb 14, 2017
I for one cant wait to see one of these manned drones fly an automated corridor route with a person in it. It feels like a huge leap forward for taxi transportation. It would be a sell out at Disneyland too!

Though, like others, I wonder why it has a multi-rotor configuration instead of an electric auto-gyro-copter which would be safer if a controller blows.
baudrunner
5 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2017
Mayday: It's just a scaled-up drone, which is what it is intended to be. It's probably easier to control it when you are putting it down to land rather than swinging it over to land.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2017
"We have already experimented (with) the vehicle in a flight in (the) Dubai sky," he said in English.
That reeks a little bit of racial profiling. The comment is over-edited. It is perfectly permissible and probably more correct to say, "Dubai sky" than it is to say, "the Dubai sky" in this context.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 15, 2017
And yet...for some very strange reason. People still fly in planes. At much faster speeds. Weird, isn't it?
Planes can glide to a landing. And I'm guessing you never saw 'Sully'.

I think hitting a goose at 60mph would crash this little thing.
Jeez...once a month I unblock you and it's always total idiocy I find
Jeez who gives a shit whether you read my posts or not? I think ive said this before yes?
Seems you're always brown-nosing after my posts and trying to fabricate some new inanity
Huh. What other poster here exhibits similar goober denigration? Who else tries to argue from 'authority'?

Stop making stupid lazy mistakes and I'll stop correcting them for others to read.
Stop licking my boots
Arf arf. Stop crapping on the carpet for others to clean up.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Feb 15, 2017
Since these have no controls there shouldn't be any in-air collisions save with birds.


Unless something interferes with the navigation, GPS loss, radio interference, or equipment malfunction that causes the copter to veer off-course.

At 60mph those would not pose a huge threat.


A bird strike to one of the rotors will instantly destabilize a quadcopter and drop it out of the sky. There's no limp-home mode because losing one corner instantly loses you the opposite corner, because otherwise it would just flip over and faceplant to the ground.

Attitude control is no longer possible with the two remaining rotors because the whole thing pivots freely around the diagonal. Unless the craft has pivoting motor nacelles and perfect weight distribution, it won't be able to level itself for a landing as a bicopter.

High wind conditions may be an issue (not too prevalent in Dubai).


Dubai is in the middle of a desert. They have frequent high winds.
baudrunner
4 / 5 (1) Feb 15, 2017
RE: bird strike. Very unlikely. Propeller planes and helicopters do not seem to suffer bird problems, why should the drone? They seem safer in that regard since the motors are electric, and not air-breathing.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
I for one cant wait to see one of these manned drones fly an automated corridor route with a person in it. It feels like a huge leap forward for taxi transportation. It would be a sell out at Disneyland too!

Though, like others, I wonder why it has a multi-rotor configuration instead of an electric auto-gyro-copter which would be safer if a controller blows.


Gyro's requires a runway, albeit short it still needs some horizontal space to land, quads can land on a helipad, A gyrocopter consumes a lot of energy, real life gyro's are known to be thirsty hogs, so making it electric will probably not give you much range, not bashing gyro's i like gyro's but quad's especially y6 y8 configurations is the future.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
Planes can glide to a landing.

Looking at the plane vs quad comparison a little closer. Planes can glide But, both have their strongs and weaknesses, anything can and still happens with planes all over the world, Nothing is 100% safe not even riding a bicycle, accidents, failures always happen.

Though planes can glide to a landing it all depends on if there is enough space to land, many a times there is no runway, just patches of flat ground here and there not nearly big enough for a plane to land. With a y8 configuration on the ehang, you can land anywhere where there is a small patch of ground, now you're asking but how it will just fall out the sky right ? wrong

Electric motors in itself is extremely reliable, if you use reliable components with adequate cooling, it's virtually bullet proof in terms of reliability. Then should a motor really have to fail you can still fly and land, as you have redundant propellers cont..
HeloMenelo
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2017
Then likely you have redundant gps receivers and a redundant flight controller, all which should make it safe, personally i would like for there to be training to people to be able to manually fly the copter, however autonomous drones are pretty reliable these days, and i would say it's possible to push this technology to the next level and start using it, the ehang being a good start.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2017
Though planes can glide to a landing it all depends on if there is enough space to land, many a times there is no runway, just patches of flat ground here and there not nearly big enough for a plane to land. With a y8 configuration on the ehang, you can land anywhere where there is a small blah
Yeahyeah hitting a goose at 60mph woukd knock one of these things out of the sky period. Hitting a goose at 60mph can wreck a car but at least it wont then drop 1000ft to the ground.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2017
Though, like others, I wonder why it has a multi-rotor configuration instead of an electric auto-gyro-copter which would be safer if a controller blows.

Control electronics are a lot simpler for quad (or in this case hexa) copters. All you need is an attitude sensor and then you just feed more power to a rotor that is 'down' and a little less to one that is 'up' in a fast control loop. This can keep drones stable - even in high winds.
Simple is good when it comes to control loops. The less complicated your control scheme is the less instabilities you have (poles in Nyquist plot).

With multiple rotors you also have redundancy. This thing can still make a controlled landing if a controller blows.

Another thing is that gyrocopters need forward motion to take off (i.e. you need a runway): Quad/hexacoptors don't.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
i like gyro's but quad's especially y6 y8 configurations is the future.

For some reason I don't like the Y configuration. I like redundancy in flight models. I'd much rather see a hex configuration. In those there's no single 'structural' point of failure.

people to be able to manually fly the copter, however autonomous drones

Not sure this would work. Simulating the control loop by hand is almost impossible. I'd rather go for multiply redundant systems. The attitude control electronics you need are tiny (much smaller than your smartphone). If you also compartmentalize the batteries then you can, with a hexa configuration, easily have triple redundancy in all systmes (i.e. 2 batteries, 2 control systems and/or 2 rotors can fail and you're still flight-worthy). That should be enough to ensure safety beyond any reasonable concerns in all but the most extreme circumstances (e.g. full frontal mid-air collision of two drones)
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
Personal preference i guess, the chances of an arm breaking for no reason is almost zero but if you want tripple extra insurance against that, normal config's would be the better, however, it takes up more space.

"people to be able to manually fly the copter, however autonomous drones"
and then your answer....."

no what i meant is with a flight controller in place like people fly drones, just without it being wireless, direct cable connection to the fc.
Fully agree with the rest of your answer, for normal hex config though the arms would need to be on top. David Mayman is designing just that, with folding side arms, it will fit in your garage and props will be away from the ground.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
Though planes can glide to a landing it all depends on if there is enough space to land, many a times there is no runway, just patches of flat ground here and there not nearly big enough for a plane to land. With a y8 configuration on the ehang, you can land anywhere where there is a small blah
Yeahyeah hitting a goose at 60mph woukd knock one of these things out of the sky period. Hitting a goose at 60mph can wreck a car but at least it wont then drop 1000ft to the ground.


possible, but i'd like to see some real life tests first, if the goose jams both props on one side permanently, yes, but i want to see if it would be sliced and possibly pushed away from the propulsion, which could be a scenario.
HeloMenelo
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2017
Also to clarify, i'd like to have both options, manual piloting and autonomous, for the general public Autonomous flying would have to be the option, which i have no problem with as we both know the reliability of the systems wrt redundancy that is in place, the technology have come a long way and it's time to put it to use in bigger real life environments.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
no what i meant is with a flight controller in place like people fly drones

While I like the idea of taking control for such a craft in a 'hobby' setting I don't think it would add much benefit in a pure personal transport environment

The only thing this would safeguard against would be loss of connection to traffic control - not any kind of technical failure scenarios. And even such loss to traffic control could be safely mitigated by implementing very simple swarm control (either by actively routing information through other craft that still have communication with traffic control, or through basic distance keeping and GPS navigation in case of full traffic control failure or on-board comms failure)

Adding controls also complicates the number of systems you have on board. You don't just need joysticks (lefty/righty?) you also need all kinds of instruments and define priority overrides for all kinds of scenarios.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
In the end adding personal flight controls might even buy you *less* safety, as more complex systems have more points of failure. People might also abuse the personal flight controls (joy riding kiddies).

For systems where a single failure point can be handled by "curageous actions of a pilot" I can understand the need for controls. A pilot might be able to glide a plane to the ground. There's no such "in-between" scenarion for copters. They are either flight-worthy or - in the event of total rotor or battery failure - they're not.
david_king
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
I wonder why my comment about dust storms was taken down by moderator?
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
I don't think it would complicate things much it's just a manual connection between a joystick and throttle to your flight controller, if you are talking about attitude indicators, horizontal and VS indicators and all that yes it would take up a lot of space, but for emergencies, i think manual control would really be a good thing, without added instruments.

But here's what i'll end off with: If they can make it completely autonomous, doing what we discussed above, then go on test rials somewhere in a desert, fly the thing for 3 months say for 7 hours a day on different routes, different weather and scenarios, push it to it's limits, and see what happens, from there, if all is good, it can slowly be taken into more populated areas.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
But i get your call wrt a citizen not knowing anything about flight possibly activating the manual controls and wrecking havoc. That's why if it is going to be solely automated, the redundancy would have to be more than 100% Rather be over redundant than under redundant, it simply should NOT fail.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
I wonder why my comment about dust storms was taken down by moderator?


Not sure what you wrote but the control tower should be centrally based, perhaps even a few towers spread across the city overseeing the whole city, monitoring any kind of storm and should be able to redirect the copter towards the closest helipad should a storm approach.
EyeNStein
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
The system will probably be grounded in anything but mild conditions.
Without the cyclic rotor variation of a true helicopter the only corridor control will be by pitching and rolling to vector the down-thrust.
It will be an interesting ride anyway as it pitches forward to reach top speed.
A later model may have to have four rotatable rotor arms to vector the thrust more comfortably.
Eikka
not rated yet Feb 17, 2017
RE: bird strike. Very unlikely. Propeller planes and helicopters do not seem to suffer bird problems, why should the drone?


That's because other aircraft don't usually travel at 300 m altitude where this thing is suppose to travel. They're kilometers up in the air where the birds don't go because they've got no business up there.
savvys84
Feb 22, 2017
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