Airbus wants the company to bring together the deployment of a single-passenger, self-driving air taxi as early as 2020.
Airbus embarked on the development of self-propelled aircraft barely 3 years ago, but promises tangible results in the near future: it is said to launch a prototype autonomous air taxi capable of carrying one passenger later this year. The company envisions the new vehicles, which customers can of course order to their homes via a mobile app, will be able to rise into the air at the touch of a button and overcome traffic jams and potential traffic jams in a short way.
According to the aircraft manufacturer’s CEO, a century ago, urban transport was moved underground, and now technological conditions have been added to raise it above the surface. Tom Enders acknowledged at the DLD conference in Munich that Airbus’s efforts are still in the pilot phase, but made it clear that his company takes this strategic direction very seriously, which will otherwise help reduce not only air pollution but also urban infrastructure design costs.
The project, called Vahana, was launched in February 2016 by Airbus A ^ 3’s research and development division, and the first plans for the new vehicle were completed in the third quarter. The company’s engineers in Silicon Valley have been building and testing various subsystems of the self-driving aircraft since August 2017. Of course, Airbus’s work is not just about solving technical challenges: it will be the same, if not longer, to overcome the obstacles that regulators have put in place for autonomous aviation.
Enders is clearly confident that the company’s vision will be feasible in practice, although U.S. (but anyway) authorities have so far been very conservative about self-propelled aircraft and drones. This is not surprising in the sense that this is an unprecedented and very complex issue that needs to be carefully considered from a wide range of aspects, such as data protection, in addition to aviation safety.
Airbus ’first man admittedly isn’t a fan of Star Wars movies, but he thinks it’s a completely realistic idea for one day flying cars to populate the skies over big cities.
Of course, Airbus is not alone in its plans for autonomous aircraft. Others (Aeromobil, Terrafugia, EHang) have already introduced such concept models, and there are even other divisions within the Airbus organization that oversee similar projects: Skyways will also start testing a drone-based home delivery service in Singapore this year, and City Airbus it is also developing self-propelled helicopters that can be called from a mobile application and carry many passengers.
In October 2016, Uber also published a study discussing new opportunities for urban aviation. The Uber Elevate, a program based on vertical take-off and landing vehicles, promises lower costs for maintaining cars and a drastic reduction in travel time, encouraging collaboration between vehicle manufacturers, regulators and government organizations, which the company says will be completed within a decade. would bring practical results.
Airbus envisages marketing Vahana’s developments in about the same timeframe, which it hopes will be a resounding success, especially among transport providers, whether in passenger or freight transport. According to Rodin Lyasoff, CEO of A ^ 3, the battery, drive or various avionics solutions should not be a problem, the biggest challenge is to develop a reliable sensor-avoidance system for autonomous vehicles. These already exist in the automotive industry, but mature solutions are not yet really available in aviation.