Dubai plans flying taxi take-off again, this time by 2026

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Dubai is again planning the takeoff of flying taxis in this futuristic city-state on the Arabian Peninsula, offering its firmest details by Monday for a promised 2026 launch.

Since 2017, the commercial capital of the UAE promises to launch flying taxis in the city already home to the tallest building in the world and other architectural wonders. A number of different types and companies have also gone through these pledges, most slated to be included in the Dubai World Government Summit, which saw this year’s edition kick off on Monday.

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the relaunch of the flying taxi program on Twitter on Sunday. This time, Dubai highlighted the six-rotor electric flying taxi manufactured by Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California, in the promotional video.

The inclusion of Joby Aviation instead of the Chinese-made EHang 184 and XPeng X2 or the German-made electric Volocopter, all previously displayed in Dubai, was not explained by Emirati officials. Joby aircraft displayed on a stand at the World Government Summit on Monday.

“We are excited about the opportunity and are actively exploring the possibility,” said Oliver Walker-Jones, spokesman for Joby Aviation.

Ahmed Bahrozyan, an official with the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority, also told state-run Dubai Eye radio station on Monday that “it’s still early days” for the plan.

“We haven’t signed with any partners yet,” he said.

Another differential of this year’s promise about flying taxis is the disclosure of details about the program. The city plans four “vertiports” at Dubai International Airport, the busiest in the world for international travel, in downtown Dubai, in the artificial archipelago of Palm Jumeirah and in Dubai Marina. These points will include two launch pads and four charging points for the flying taxis.

“We believe these are attractive areas with business hubs and tourist hubs that can generate considerable demand,” Bahrozyan said.

The price of flying taxis “will be in the range of a limousine service in Dubai, maybe a little higher,” Bahrozyan said. The RTA describes rates for limousine services as “at least 30% higher than taxi rates” in the city. Taxis have a minimum fare of around US$3.25 and charge US$0.50 per kilometer.

Another departure from previous plans includes the RTA’s planning to pilot flying taxis early on, rather than autonomous ones, as previously discussed. Bahrozyan described having a pilot with seats for passengers on board, which match Joby’s electric flying taxi. However, Bahrozyan said that testing will also continue with autonomous flying taxis.

The Joby prototype can fly more than 240 kilometers (150 miles) before needing a charge – something that would put Abu Dhabi and other areas of the country within range. It takes off and lands vertically, while its rotors tilt forward during flight. It has a top speed of 320 km/h (200 mph).

Joby Avation Inc., listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was priced at $4.20 a share before trading on Monday. Its major shareholders include Intel Corp., while Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has also invested.

The video posted by Sheikh Mohammed’s Twitter account also included the logo of London-based Skyports Infrastructure, which also refers to its supporting projects as “vertiports”. The company is already testing its “vertiport” model outside Paris and is working with Joby. Skyports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Opening up the skies to flying taxis would heighten Dubai’s “Blade Runner” skyline, while easing the real-world routine of daily traffic that only gets worse as its population swells to over 3.5 million people.

Rush hour on Sheikh Zayed Road, a twelve-lane artery that runs the length of Dubai, alternates between dense traffic jams and sports car slaloms. More than 1.8 million vehicles registered in Dubai travel on its roads, not counting those coming from the six other sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates.

There is also a desire to move away from carbon-guzzling gasoline and diesel vehicles, as the UAE will host the United Nations’ upcoming COP28 climate talks later this year.. That’s because the Emirates are hoping to expand their crude oil production ahead of a promised “carbon neutral” future by 2050.


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