Dubai has made a habit of pushing the transportation envelope, and its latest ambitions are literally sky high.
The drone can carry a single passenger weighing up to 220 pounds and a small suitcase for 30 minutes. The traveler climbs into the drone and inputs a destination within 31 miles, then takes to the sky at a speed of 62 mph, according to the AP. The drone is monitored via a control room.
The drone takes off from and lands at predetermined points and uses a camera to ensure a safe landing, according to EHang’s website. If the drone malfunctions or disconnects from 4G mobile service, it promises to land immediately at the nearest safe location, the company says.
The drone is the brainchild of a Chinese company called EHang and was trotted out to spectators at the International CES technology show in January last year. The following July, officials in Nevada revealed plans to begin testing the drone with hopes of eventually winning the approval of federal regulators, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
“I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system,” Mark Barker, business development director at the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, told the paper.
The drone is the latest example of how the government of Dubai has jumped on new technology to shuttle people in the city. Officials there have begun working on a Hyperloop high-speed highway that could propel people and cargo in floating capsules at airplane-like speeds.
The city also holds the Guinness World Record for the longest driverless metro rail system, which opened in May 2011 and currently travels about 46 miles. (There is some question about whether the Skytrain in Vancouver is actually longer, but Dubai possesses the Guinness certificate.)
The EHang isn’t the first personalized air transport in Dubai. Uber offered a helicopter service during the Grand Prix auto race there in November 2015 at a price of $600 per seat. The company has since partnered with a tour company to provide Uber Chopper service.
For its part, Uber recently hired a NASA scientist to work on flying cars — an idea that seems outlandishly futuristic, except perhaps in Dubai.
Read more from The Washington Post’s Innovations section.