In Dubai is happening what we could call a “technological revolution”.

Airport authorities of the Emirate of Dubai announced the creation of the first police-bot. The debut has happened during the fourth Gulf Information and Security Expo and Conference (GISEC), near the Burj Khalifa. REEM, this the name of the prototype presented, is 170centimetres tall and weighs 100 Kg, has an emotion sensor inside, can recognise gestures and hand movements in a 1.5 metres range. According to what said PAL Robotics, the company settled in Barcelona which have built it with the aid of the police of Dubai, it will be possible to control the machine from the distance or to leave it working on its own: the battery allows it to work eight hours. Even robots, like their human colleagues (but it will be needed only to change their battery in order to charge them to 100%), will have shifts. “The United Arab Emirates and Dubai are preparing to organize some events, like EXPO in 2020, which forces us to recruit and train a great number of policemen” said the general director of the police force of Dubai, the general Khalid al-Razzouqi. But it is possible to appear in Dubai streets now. In a first moment, it will be used by tourists and citizens to ask for information ( it speaks six tongues) and to signal and pay fines.

REEM won’t be used to stalk potential criminals or so, thought: in fact despite having a device for the facial recognition projected by IBM, it will only tell his human colleagues if he finds someone suspicious or problems. T will be able to read machine plates from the distance and look after unguarded objects in highly populated zones. I twill also able to record vocal witnesses from people with whom he will be able to interact through a touch screen that will allow them to talk directly with the central station. Another application ( the term isn’t random because they seem to have a processor similar to that installed in the new smart phones) seems to be that he will signal fires thanks to the installation of a smoke sensor.

“Our objective consists in replacing 25% of the policemen with robots by 2030”, said Khalid al-Razzouqi. It will be introduced in human squads to help fighting the crime. By 2030, according to the Police Services Administration Intelligence director, it will be possible to have a police station completely managed by Cyber-policemen.

In Dubai, always talking about robotics, during the World Government Summit has been presented the first AAV (Autonomous aerial vehicle), a flying taxi drone born from the collaboration between the Route and Trabsport Authority (RRTA) and the Chinese company Ehang. The first tests of Ehang184 seem to have given positive results. “The actual vehicle consists in a version we have already experimented, RTA is putting all his efforts in order to launch it as soon as possible”, said Mattar al Tayer, general director and president of RTA. The vehicle has been provided of a touch screen with the map of all possible destinations. It has a number of default paths: the passenger must only select the destination and the vehicle will do everything automatically, will take off, will set the default flying speed and finally will land in the chosen point.

The vehicle is 3,9 metres long, 4 metres wide and 1,6 metres tall, it weights 250 kg empty and it can carry a passenger (just one) for one hour. The top cruise height is 3000 feet and the recharging time requires one to two hours. Up to now autonomy is still short: the taxi drone can fly for a max of 30 minutes at a top cruise speed of 160 km/hours, with a standard speed in Dubai of 100 km per hour. The ascending/ descending speed is about 6 metres/s.

All in a completely automatic way, even if in the first part of the project everything will be monitored from a centre on the ground to control every operation. The goal is to transform the 25% of the individual trips in automatic drones trips by 2030, according to Al Tayer. Always taking care of safety of passengers: “We have faced and tried the highest levels of security for the development and production of the Ehang184. The vehicle has eight main propellers, so that if one breaks down, there are still seven ready to complete the flight and make a nice landing. In case of eventual malfunction in one of these systems, the control unit will be able to control and orientate safely the drone to the chosen landing point”, said Al Tayer.

Safety is a discussion point every time we talk about robots: Steve Wright, the aeronautic professor at the West of England University, has called himself sceptical about the possibilities of success of the drone presented in Dubai. “The main point is succeeding in creating systems able to resist to possible faults, I would like to see the drone flying for at least a thousand hours before seeing a person in it.”

Another opinion comes from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority which has participated to the tests which define the standards of safety required for authorizations and inspections of the vehicle. “The drone is projected for working with almost every atmospheric. The vehicle has high-precision sensors with a low chance of error and can resist to extreme vibrations and temperatures”, concluded Al Taver.

But this isn’t all: in order for it to work, this vehicle should be controlled from a control station through a 4G connection and some structures that haven’ t already been seen should be built. The real risk is that this will become more a tourist attraction than an answer to a real problem.

The sample run of the first drone is being done according to the desire of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arabian Emirates and governor of Dubai, of transforming Dubai in the smartest and most technological city in the world. A complete revolution.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the company Airbus Group has also thought about a flying taxi with the autopilot: Vahana, this is the name of the vehicle, should be ready by 2020, and in order to prevent the problems shown by Wright, the technicians of the Airbus have installed in the vehicle a ballistic parachute . Thinking about a airplane-taxi whose design is in the hands of an ex-engineer from the NASA.

Also, in Dubai, there’s already someone who talks about a hyper-fast train, Hyperloop One, which will consist in capsules moving at an extreme speed in a low-pressure tubes. Starting from Dubai, the new train should reach Abu Dhabi in a mere 12 minutes, Riyadh in 48 and Doha in 23. Everything travelling at almost 800 km/hours!

In Sicily, in the meanwhile, it’s being decided what to do to rebuild broken streets and repair interrupted and disconnected streets and what to do for the railway on which run, almost for a half, only trains with oil, because it’s not even electrified…

C.Alessandro Mauceri e Giorgio Mauceri

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