Dubai, UAE, August 5, 2017: The UAE may be a small country but thanks to the vision of its leaders, the country has set its mark globally in many fields. Dubai is known as the home of the tallest building on earth. “Where is the largest shopping mall of the world” is an easy question to answer now. Some of the best-known global brands in aviation too are based in this country.
Keeping the same spirit alive, Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced the concept of ‘Dubai Air Taxi – a driverless flying car' or ‘Autonomous Unmanned Air System Taxi' in technical terms, which would fly the passengers from one place to another without needing any pilot. Dubai Air Taxi would become part of Dubai's Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy, bringing eco-friendly and faster modes of transportation to the UAE. As expressed in the UAE newspapers in June 2017, RTA is hoping to start the trial flying by the end of the current year.
When the project is completed successfully, the operation of Dubai Air Taxi must be very safe and the level of safety required will only be achieved if robust regulations, mechanisms and systems are in place.
Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director General of the General Civil Aviation Authority says, “With the help of the adaptable and dynamic regulations, innovative mechanisms and systems from the GCAA that it provides to support its stakeholders. The UAE will not only be the first country to allow operation of flying pilotless taxis, it also will be a hub where such taxis are ‘the safest”.
Today's modern airliners are the marvels of technology and are very safe. However, the work that goes into making them so safe remains invisible to an ordinary eye. The work that goes into designing, manufacturing, operating and maintaining them is complex and so are the systems and the regulations that govern them. The current level of safety has been achieved because of the regulatory systems and technologies matured over a century of actual operating experience and some of the lessons were learnt the hard way as well.
The case of Dubai Air Taxi is however different – there is no pilot in the taxi, the concept does not have any precedence, there exists no regulations and no systems – not in the UAE and nowhere else in the world.
In order to help RTA achieve this vision, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) took initiative and formed a team of specialists that are being led by Mr. Ismaeil Mohammed Al Blooshi, Assistant Director General Aviation Safety Affairs and the Director of Airworthiness Mr. Aqeel Al Zarouni.
Mr. Ismaeil Mohammed Al Blooshi, Assistant Director General Aviation Safety Affairs says, “At the GCAA, initial suite of regulations for experimental operations have are drafted and study of the most suitable support system is underway. The GCAA is reviewing the requirements, researching on the results of studies and tests, looking into availability of support systems like emergency equipment and infrastructure and the efficacy of the operators and exploring the impact of the new mobility system on the safety of air navigation.”
The GCAA is also in contact with overseas National Aviation Authorities in this regards. A comprehensive approach addressing all relevant factors is the only way forward. The GCAA is committed to complete everything as soon as possible but like anything worthwhile, there are no shortcuts to safety. The GCAA will allow operation of air taxis only when it is sure that all elements required for their safe operation are in place.