The world’s first pilotless aerial vehicle (AAV) aircraft capable of carrying passengers is set to fly across Dubai as early as July, the city’s transport body has announced.
Electrically powered by eight propellers, the aircraft, commonly referred to as an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) has already undergone test flights, according to the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
Developed in collaboration with a Chinese drone maker, EHANG, the aircraft, called EHANG184, can carry a passenger for up to 30 minutes in the air.
EHANG184 is fitted with a touchscreen in front of the passenger seat displaying a destination map.
Along the preset routes, the rider selects their intended destination.
The vehicle will then start automatic operation, take off and cruise to the set destination before descending and landing in a specific spot. A ground control center will monitor and control the entire flight.
The craft will help Dubai achieve its goals of one in four journeys to be taken by driverless, autonomous transport by 2030, said Mattar Al Tayer, the RTA’s director-general and chairman of the Board.
Unveiled at the World Government Summit in Dubai, “the aircraft is a real version that we have already experimented the vehicle in a flight in the Dubai sky,” Al Tayer said.
“The RTA is making every effort to start the operation of the [AAV] in July 2017,” he added.
EHANG184 has been designed and made along “the highest levels of security,” the RTA chief added.
If any propeller fails, the remaining seven can help complete the flight and land smoothly.
The AAV is fitted with numerous basic systems all in operation at the same time, while all work independently.
“In case of any malfunctioning in one of these systems, the standby system would be capable of controlling and safely steering the [aircraft] to the programmed landing point,” said Al Tayer.
The aircraft is designed to fly for maximum 30 minutes at a maximum cruising speed of 160 kilometers per hour, with a standard speed of 100 kilometers per hour.
It can take off at speeds of 6 meters per second and land at 4 meters per second.
The AAV measures 3.9 meter in length, 4.02 meter in width and 1.60 meter in height. It weighs about 250kg and 360kg with a passenger.
The maximum cruising height is 3,000 feet and the battery charging time is 1 to 2 hours, and can operate under all climatic conditions apart from thunderstorms.
Fitted with highly accurate sensors, the aircraft has a very low-error threshold and can resist vibrations and extreme temperatures.
“Dubai Civil Aviation Authority was a partner in our trials defining the safety criteria required, issuing the permits for trial and inspecting the vehicle,” said Al Tayer.
UAE telecoms giant Etisalat provides the 4G data network used in communication between the AAV and the ground control center.