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Drone taxis? Dubai plans roll out of self-flying pods

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There’s been lots of talk in recent years about self-driving cars. Now, it appears as if self-flying passenger drones are next — and they could flying in one major city as soon as this July.

That’s according to a plan revealed Monday in Dubai, where the head of the Dubai Roads and Transportation Authority said it wants to develop passenger-carrying drones as a way to move people around the United Arab Emirates’ biggest city. Officials said flights could begin in July, though few other details were offered.

The Associated Press reports the drone type being pursued for Dubai’s passenger service is the Chinese-made EHang 184, “an egg-shaped craft with four legs sticking out, each with two small propellers.”

FULL REPORT: Up, up and away: Passenger-carrying drone to fly in Dubai

How would it work? A rider would add a destination on a touch screen in front of the passenger seat. From there, the drone would lift off and “automatically” fly to the passengers’ destination. 

AP says the EHang 184 drone has a battery life that allows for 30 minutes of flying and could cover about 30 miles. The drones can handle a flier and a small bag weighing up to a combined total of 220 pounds.

IN PICTURES: 30 cool aviation photos

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The Roads & Transportation Authority says the drones would be monitored remotely from a ground-based control room. “There’s no option to take control of the (EHang)184 remotely,” adds The Daily Mail of London. “The cockpit is empty, apart from a stand to place a smartphone or tablet and a cup holder.”

George Yan, co-founder of Ehang, spoke to the Daily Mail in 2016 after the 184 was unveiled in Las Vegas.

“You know how it feels to sit in a Ferrari? This is 10 times better,” Yan, said to the Daily Mail.

“Everything is calculated in the backend to pick the most optimal route for you, so there is no collision with the other drones flying,” Yan added to the newspaper. “On the drone itself we have built pretty sophisticated back up services so if another system fails then another will take over.”

Dubai’s plans for the EHang 184 were unveiled during the World Government Summit being held there.

“This is not only a model,” Mattar al-Tayer, head of Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Authority, told AP. “We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”

Stay tuned (and buckle-up) …

TWITTER: You can follow Today in the Sky editor Ben Mutzabaugh at twitter.com/TodayInTheSky

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