Flying taxis in Dubai: A look at the electric aircraft coming in 2026

US-based Joby Aviation targets initial operations in 2025, making the emirate world’s first to offer commercial electric air taxi services

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Dubai has firmed up plans to introduce flying taxis to the emirate by 2026, with agreements signed on Sunday with Joby Aviation and Skyports Infrastructure.

The emirate will become the first location in the world with a commercial, citywide electric air taxi service, Skyports said.

With traffic increasing each year, the skies offer an efficient and cost-effective way of travelling.

Here, The National takes a look at what the new service will mean for residents and visitors.

What’s been agreed?

Dubai Roads and Transport Authority signed an agreement that provides US-based Joby Aviation with the exclusive right to operate air taxis in Dubai for six years.

Joby Aviation has established a local operating group in Dubai to support the development of its operations and intends to recruit locally for the majority of its operational team.

UK-based Skyports was granted exclusive rights to design, construct and operate a network of vertiports – launch and landing areas for the air taxis.

Skyports said detailed studies had been completed and architectural design had started for the first phase of development.

When will we see air taxis in the sky?

While it has been agreed that operations will start by early 2026, Joby Aviation is targeting initial operations as early as 2025.

The Joby Aviation S4 is a silent, battery-operated aircraft, which has a top speed of 321kph and capacity for a pilot and four passengers.

The aircraft is in the process of being certified by the US aviation oversight body, the Federal Aviation Administration, which has the most stringent safety standards in the world.

On Friday, the FAA approved Joby’s propulsion certification plan, which means all structural, mechanical and electrical system certification plans are now accepted by the aviation regulator.

Once it is passed, the UAE is expected to grant a reciprocal certification.

Where will they fly to?

In phase one, flights will operate from four vertiports – Dubai International Airport, Palm Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina.

A journey from Dubai International to The Palm Jumeirah is expected to take only 10 minutes compared with 45 minutes by car.

Ahmed Bahrozyan, chief executive of the Public Transport Agency, said the sites were chosen because of their population density and tourist attractions.

With the aircraft capable of a maximum flight distance of 161km, intercity operations are a possibility in future.

How much will it cost?

A pricing structure has yet to be agreed on for the flying taxis. Mr Bahrozyan previously told The National a ride would eventually cost little more than the average Careem.

Joby Aviation will run the flights on a per-trip model.

Speaking at the World Governments Summit in Dubai, JoeBen Bevirt, chief executive and founder of Joby Aviation, said the speed of the aircraft would lead to an increase in revenue.

"Because you're flying at 200 miles an hour, that pilot and that aircraft are much more productive in terms of the number of passenger miles per hour that they deliver," Mr Bevirt said.

"So if you're moving 400 passengers at 200 miles an hour and you're flying 50 per cent of the time, you're delivering 400 passenger miles per hour compared to a ground vehicle, which might be delivering 20 passenger miles per hour.

"So that aircraft is then 20 times as productive as the car on the ground in terms of the number of utility that is providing to the customers, and so that's one of the biggest drivers that reduces the cost."

Updated: February 13, 2024, 4:00 AM