A SHORT first hop for 'drone taxi' in Vienna.

And it more of small step than a giant leap, but the first public outing of a  pilotless ''drone taxi'' in Vienna on Thursday nevertheless offered a glimpse into the famous possible future of urban travel.

Several big companies such as Boeing and Airbus are working on their own versions of the technology but it was the Chinese firm EHang that unveiled its aircraft to assembled journalists in the Austrian capital's Generali Arena football stadium.

But anyone expecting to see it gliding over the Danube was to be disappointed - it is as yet not certified  for Austrian airspace  and stayed firmly within the confines of the stadium after a vertical hop of around 10 metres [about 30 feet].

Being inside the two-seater EHang 216  was ''funny, soft and surprisingly noisy,'' said AFP  photographer  Joe Klamar, one of the first journalists  to climb abroad, adding that the cabin was ''very cramped''.

''The rotors are scary but we got used to it,'' he added

The EHang 216 is equipped with eight sets of rotors which emit a noise level of 90 decibels, below a normal  helicopter but stiff easily loud enough to be uncomfortable.

The firm says it hopes to get the noise level down to 75 decibels.

Resistant  'Mentalities' : EHang says it eventually hopes to use the drone to carry passengers at low altitude over distances of up to 35 kilometres [22 miles]  but for now still needs to be cleared for use by aviation authorities.

''Our biggest challenge is not technology, it's not regulation, it's people's mentality,''  says  EHang's chief marketing officer Derrick Xiong, referring to possible reticence on the part of  passengers towards the new vehicle.

The company says it has received ''thousands'' of pre-orders and  that
is working with Austrian aeronautics  company FACC to start mass production as of next year. [Agencies]


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