At least that’s what Airbus wants, the company would bring together this year a live test of a single-passenger, self-driving air taxi.
Airbus began developing self-propelled aircraft 3 years ago, but promises tangible results in the near future: a prototype of a stand-alone air taxi capable of carrying a passenger is said to be tested later this year. The company envisions new vehicles, which customers can, of course, order into their homes through a mobile app, can rise into the air at the touch of a button and overcome traffic jams and potential traffic obstructions in a short way.
According to the CEO of the aircraft manufacturer, a century ago, urban transport was moved underground and now its technological elevation has been expanded with technological conditions. Tom Enders acknowledged at the DLD conference in Munich that Airbus’s efforts are still in a pilot phase, but made it clear that his company takes this strategic direction very seriously, which would otherwise 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. 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 put in front of 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 taken a very conservative approach to 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 people to fly in the sky over big cities one day.
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.
Last October, Uber also published a study discussing new opportunities for urban aviation. Referred to as Uber Elevate, the program, based on vertical take-off and landing vehicles, promises lower costs for car maintenance and drastic reductions 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 envisions to market Vahana’s developments in about the same timeframe, which it hopes will be a resounding success primarily among transport providers, be it passenger or freight. According to Rodin Lyasoff, CEO of A ^ 3, the battery, propulsion 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.