Self-driven airborne taxi testing by the end of 2017

To address the rising concern of rush-hour traffic, Airbus is looking skywards for solutions to relieve urban congestion. A³, the Silicon Valley arm of Airbus, revealed its secret flying-car project named Vahana, a single-manned, autonomously piloted aircraft. The aircraft is composed of eight rotors on two sets of wings, both of which tilt depending on whether the vehicle is flying vertically or horizontally. The project was initiated in early 2016 and is considered one of the first pursuits of A³.

The project is something that Airbus takes “very seriously,” Enders told the DLD tech conference in Munich on Monday, noting that airborne transit for goods and individual passengers would actually be tremendously beneficial in terms of alleviating urban congestion, and reconfiguring how urban planners think about designing cities.

Vahana aims to have a viable production urban aircraft for short-haul trips available by 2021, and so actual prototype tests by the end of this year make sense given those timelines. In fact, the company previously said it was hoping to field a full-scale prototype sometime in 2017, so it looks like Enders is still committed to keeping his company to that timeline, including active flight testing.

The vehicle will likely use a four-rotor design with variable positioning possible to help with vertical take off, and then shift for propelling the craft through the air. The design process is taking into account what’s feasible and most efficient, given requirements like an electric motor, which Airbus is focusing on so that a fleet of the vehicles, once deployed, will not actually have a worse ecological impact than ground-based transportation in terms of contributing to air pollution.

Airbus actually believes that they’d be ignoring the category at their peril, given the pace and progress of technology that can help make it possible, including autonomous driving systems and electric battery tech.

If Airbus can pull off the prototype, the biggest hurdle might be regulation – transporting humans by drone is still a big legal no-no in dense metropolitan areas, and it’ll be a challenge to prove its safety both to end users and municipal regulators.

 

Source Credits – TechCrunch – Airbus News Release and https://vahana.aero/

 

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