Sheikh Hamdan witnesses first test flight of AAT

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, attended the maiden concept flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi, AAT, a vehicle that will be used for the world’s first self-flying taxi service that will be introduced by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority, RTA.

The two-seater AAT, capable of transporting people without human intervention or a pilot, has been supplied by Volocopter, a Germany-based specialist manufacturer of autonomous air vehicles. The test flight was held near the Jumeirah Beach Park.

"After the remarkable success of the first driverless metro in the region, we are glad to witness the test flight of the Autonomous Air Taxi," Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said.

"This is another testament of our commitment to driving positive change. We are constantly exploring opportunities to serve the community, and advance the prosperity and happiness of the society."

He noted that the key to top the global competitiveness rankings was to adopt advanced innovative technologies and applications that would help enhance services for the community.

"Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also help build bridges to the future," he added.

His Highness stressed the importance of the transport sector, which he said was a vital driver for development and an indicator of the nation’s advancement.

H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Emirates Group; Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future; and Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy and Chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority, also attended the test flight.

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA, remarked, "The Autonomous Air Taxi has a variety of unique features that include top security and safety standards, besides multiple redundancies in all critical components, such as propellers, motors, power source, electronics and flight controls. It is also fitted with optional emergency parachutes, nine independent battery systems, and a battery quick-charge and plug-in system, which takes two hours to reach full charge in the prototype version, a time that will be significantly reduced in the production version."

Powered by clean electricity and featuring low noise levels, the AAT is an environment-friendly vehicle. Its current prototype version has a maximum flight time of approximately 30 minutes at a cruise speed of 50km/h, and a maximum airspeed of 100km/h. The AAT is about two metres high, and the diameter of the rotor rim, including propellers, is just over seven metres.

Sheikh Hamdan was briefed about the integration of the AAT with public transport systems such as the Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, public buses, marine transit modes and taxis. He was also told about the procedures for making the AAT service available to the public through a smart mobility app. The app will allow customers to book flights, receive booking reference details and track the route of the AAT.

Over the next five years, the RTA will collaborate with the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to put in place the operational requirements for implementing the AAT services. These requirements include developing laws and policies governing the certification of the aircraft and the AAT operations at the emirate and federal level, defining aerial routes and corridors, designing and locating take-off and landing points, setting standards for official operators of the AAT services in Dubai, identifying the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, and specifying the security and safety standards for the AAT.

Al Tayer revealed that the RTA had appointed US-based JDA Aviation Company, an autonomous air-vehicle safety specialist, to oversee the preparations for the AAT flights and manage their safety. The trial operations and the process of developing legislation for this type of vehicles will stretch across five years, during which comprehensive, operational security and safety measures will be put in place, Al Tayer said.

Sheikh Hamdan launched the first AAT, and he also watched the aerial shots transmitted by the airborne taxi on monitors and reviewed the process that the RTA would follow to track the flight of the AAT.

Al Tayer said, "The trial run of the AAT reflects the directives of Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to transform Dubai into the world’s smartest city. It is also part of the RTA's efforts to introduce autonomous transport services after conducting rigorous tests for these vehicles in Dubai’s climatic conditions. The move also reflects the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy’s target for autonomous transport to account for a quarter of the total journeys in Dubai by 2030."

Al Tayer commended the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority’s efforts to develop a legislative and operational structure, as well as specifications and standards for the operators of such vehicles in the emirate.

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