The future comes sooner than we expect

Drones as urban taxies might be just round the corner, at least in Dubai. In the photo the Ehang 184 that Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency is planning to use starting July 2017. Credit: EHANG

At CES 2016 EHANG showcased a drone that can be used as a taxi, able to transport one person for roughly 50 km (31miles) at a speed exceeding 150kmh. It is powered by a battery that ensures 30' of flight time. The idea of the co-founder of the company, Shang Wen Hsiao, was to have these drones used by hospital to ferry organs from donor to recipient flying over the urban traffic and he contacted several hospitals with a business plan requiring to sell 1,000 of them to break even. For that he needed the FAA approval.

Now, the Dubai's Road and Transportation Agency has announced at the World Government Summit the intention to start operating the Ehang 184 as taxi to ferry people, business men, as shown in the video clip, across Dubai.

This is really out of the future. Although several people have imagined drones used in a urban environment as taxi the target I wonder how many would have imagined that a commercial service of taxi-drones would "take off" as early as July 2017.  Notice that even the "inventor" of the Ehang 184, just last year didn't foresee shuffling people as application in this timeframe.

Drones have become in very little time extremely reliable and have prove easy to steer, much easier than a plane. Technology, so far at least, is constraining their range but there are application areas where these constrains are not a showstopper.

I am looking forward to experience the taxi-drone next year when I will go back to Dubai. On the other hand, an article published on Spectrum is cautioning on using a drone, since there is no plan B if something goes wrong.... so may be I should keep my desire to board the drone in check.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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