Autonomous flying taxi carries passengers for the first time: pilgrims in Mecca

Autonomous flying taxi carries passengers for the first time: pilgrims in Mecca

After years of testing, and later also with real people, the first two self-driving flying taxis will transport real passengers. The manned test will now take place during the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Interest in flying taxis is high in the Middle East. There are plans to create a network of flying cars in Dubai, and flying taxis are now taking to the air in Saudi Arabia as well. Two of them will be tested during the Muslim Hajj season currently underway from June 14 to 19. Millions of Muslims then flock to Mecca and it is always very crowded. Opportunities for a taxi that can skip traffic jams.

The taxis look like huge drones: eight-rotor octocopters from the Chinese company EHang. This concerns the EH216-S, which flies autonomously without a pilot. And Mecca has it the first: This is the first flying taxi to be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. Never before have ordinary citizens been allowed to ride such a flying taxi without any hassle.

Small but versatile

The EHang flying vehicle can transport two people, with a maximum loading capacity of 220kg. Its compact size makes it useful in the city: only 1.85 meters high and 5.63 meters wide. The helicopter’s eight arms are foldable and therefore take up relatively little parking space. At maximum capacity, the EH216 can reach a high speed of 130 km/h, with a range of just over 35 km per flight. This is done completely autonomously, via a control system developed by EHang.

The practical test is an important step for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to introduce flying taxis nationwide. Majed Al-Ghaslan, Chairman and CEO of Front End, said: “In line with Saudi Vision 2030, our goal is to promote a ‘connected kingdom’ that serves as a gateway for our partners to access growth opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole.” , the project developer that is deploying EHang vehicles in Saudi Arabia.

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