Volocopter flying taxi drone Dubai United Arab Emirates
Credit: Courtesy of Volocopter

Dubai’s flying taxi drone made its first test flight this week.

The taxi launched without any passengers on Monday, hovered about 650 feet above the ground for five minutes, and safely landed.

The Volocopter (named after the German company who developed it) is a two-seater aircraft whose cabin resembles that of a normal helicopter. However, above the cabin is a wide hoop with 18 propellers around its rim.

The battery-operated taxi drone is capable of flights up to 30 minutes long. It has a cruising speed of about 30 miles per hour, but is capable of going up to 60 miles per hour.

There are backup batteries, rotors and, in a worst case scenario, parachutes for passengers.

“Implementation would see you using your smartphone, having an app, and ordering a Volocopter to the next voloport near you,” CEO Florian Reuter told Reuters. “The volocopter would come and autonomously pick you up and take you to your destination.”

The app, like Uber, would also allow users to track their ride.

Although Dubai hopes to make the flying taxi service operational within five years, there remains much to be done before anybody steps inside for a ride. Developers are still working on a system that will help the Volocopter deal with unexpected obstacles.

The taxi drones are part of the city’s aggressive push to become a leader in innovation in the Middle East. Dubai premiered the first driverless metro system in the area in 2009 and unveiled prototypes for robot policemen earlier this year.

The government of Dubai hopes to make a quarter of all transportation autonomous by 2030.