Tomorrow’s world is already here - or at least it might be by next summer. According to Dubai's Roads & Transport Authority (RTA), the Chinese quadcopter EHang 184 could begin service in July. The vehicle has just been tested in flight over the Emirates’ capital, Dubai. In theory, each of these giant drones is capable of transporting a passenger up to 100 kg from one place in the city to another at a speed of 100 km/h in complete autonomy. The passenger just has to select a destination from a list of pre-programmed destinations in the city, and the technology does the rest. The flights are coordinated by a ground control center. If successful, this new mode of transport would enable Dubai to achieve its aim of making 25% of its transport system self-sufficient by 2030.
We may still have to wait a little while before we mistake ourselves for Bruce Willis in "Fifth Element". The EHang 184 has not yet been certified and current legislation does not permit use of automatic multirotors in the airspace with a person on board. The prototype, unveiled last year at the CES new technologies show in Las Vegas, began its test flights (see the video) in late 2016, but with no passengers on board.
So flying taxis between Dubai’s skyscrapers may not be so utopian, but the date of entry into service seems at best optimistic, at worst close to science fiction.