Airbus promises electric-powered flying passenger vehicles. He says they will bring less traffic jams and cheaper transport and if all goes well, they will be deployable as early as 2020.
The demand for a working, car that can be used in traffic is almost as old as the birth of driving. But while it is much easier to organize transport on concrete and bitumen, conquering the air for the same purpose seemed an impractical solution due to the congestion of the air. However, Airbus seems very committed to aviation reform; according to the European manufacturer, if we take one out of the formula, everything becomes much simpler. It is believed that by 2020, the first vehicles capable of flying (also) with a maximum of 2 people may appear.
The development of the Airbus A3 advanced technical research laboratory gave fresh news about their development under the codename Vahana. Arne Stoschek, head of the department, spoke at Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference in San Jose about where the project is now.
He used data borrowed from Uber to figure out why flying cars are needed. It takes about one to three-quarters of an hour to travel a San Francisco-San Jose trip (91 kilometers) on the ground, but if the car can ascend into the air, it will bring a significant reduction in both the distance traveled and the time it takes. In this case, you only have to fly 69 kilometers, which is enough for 15 minutes.
It’s surprising, but the latter form of travel can be quite cheap. Uber estimates that a self-guided flying taxi on this road would cost approximately $ 43 when the project starts, but in the longer term, the travel fee could drop to around $ 20.
The new vehicle, which incorporates some of the above, will be electrically powered, Stoschek explained. The tilting rotor drive allows for vertical take-offs and landings, which would initially be based on existing heliports. Designed for the transport of the two main ones, the Vahana is not (only) built on brand new technologies, but what engineers are still using is what is currently being used. For example, batteries that can bridge a distance of nearly 100 kilometers at top speeds of up to 224 km / h. Naturally, with the development of charge storage technology, the range of Vahana may also increase.
Stoschek tried to support the fact that it was not just about ideas and hopes by promising the first, full flight test before the end of this year. Interestingly, the development may have been accelerated by the fact that the FAA, which regulates U.S. aviation, has much stricter regulations for man-made flying structures than for autonomous devices. And from the direction of self-driving cars, a lot of experience and knowledge has already been accumulated, some of which can be used during the flight.
An example is the construction of a vehicle. Each air taxi carries a camera, radar and lidar sensor. Thanks to these, it fully perceives its surroundings in a 360-degree space, which allows it to detect any obstacles. However, unlike a car, the Vahana does not have a brake. Artificial intelligence must figure out how to avoid objects in its path, similar to a bird or a larger plane. And each vehicle is in constant contact with each other during the flight, thus helping aviation and preventing collisions.
Stoschek acknowledged that providing the current average computing capacity requires too much energy to operate self-propelled electric aircraft economically, where every watt and gram saved counts a lot. However, he believed that by 2020, the software and hardware environment would evolve so much that it would be possible to put the Vahana project into practice.