Flying taxi - without a pilot

Dubai staged a test flight on Monday for what it said would soon be the world's first drone taxi service.

The flying taxi developed by German drone firm Volocopter resembles a small, two-seater helicopter cabin topped by a wide hoop studded with 18 propellers.

It was unmanned and without passengers for its maiden test run in a ceremony arranged for Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

In the test flight, the device hovered upwards about 200m and whirred for about five minutes over a windswept patch of sand astride the emirate's Gulf coast.

Meant to fly without remote control guidance and with a maximum flight duration of 30 minutes, it comes with plenty of fail-safes: back-up batteries, rotors and, for a worst-case scenario, a couple of parachutes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Flying taxi - without a pilot'. Print Edition | Subscribe