DUBAI: Dubai again is planning for the takeoff of flying taxis in this futuristic city-state, offering its firmest details yet Monday for a pledged launch by 2026.
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced the relaunched flying taxi program on Twitter Sunday, saying air taxis will begin flying in Dubai within three years.
Sheikh Mohammed revealed that he had approved designs for air taxi stations at the World Government Summit in Dubai this week.
“From the World Government Summit, we approved today the design of the new air taxi stations in Dubai, which will start operating within three years,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.
The announcment highlighted the six-rotor electric flying taxi made by Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California, in the promotional video.
The inclusion of Joby Aviation aircraft is featured at a stand at the World Government Summit on Monday.
“We’re excited about the opportunity and actively exploring the possibility,” said Oliver Walker-Jones, a spokesman for Joby Aviation.
Ahmed Bahrozyan, an official in the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority, told Dubai Eye radio station on Monday that “it’s early days” for the plan.
“We haven’t yet signed with any partners yet,” he said.
The announcment also included the city plans for four “vertiports” by Dubai International Airport, downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah archipelago and Dubai Marina. Those points will include two launching pads and four charging points for the flying taxis.
“We believe those are attractive areas with business hubs and tourist hubs that could generate considerable demand,” Bahrozyan said.
The pricing for the flying taxis “will be in the range of a limousine service in Dubai, maybe slightly higher,” Bahrozyan said. The RTA describes limo services rates as “at least 30 percent higher than taxi fares” in the city. Taxis have a minimum fare of around $3.25 and charge $0.50 a kilometer.
The Joby prototype can fly over 240 kilometers before needing a charge — something which would put Abu Dhabi and other areas of the country within range. It takes off and lands vertically, while its rotors tilt forward in flight. It has a maximum speed of 320 kph.
Joby Avation Inc., which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was at $4.20 a share before trading Monday. Its major shareholders include Intel Corp., while Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines also has invested.
Opening the skies to flying taxis would contribute to easing the daily traffic that’s only worsening as city population booms to over 3.5 million people.
Rush hour on Sheikh Zayed Road, a dozen-lane artery running down the length of the Dubai, alternates between dense gridlock and sports-car slalom.