Drive Wire For November 9, 2016: Airbus’s Project Vahana May Reduce Congested Commuting

Who would say no to a self-flying quadcopter on demand?

With autonomous cars already deemed a foregone conclusion, mobility companies are setting their sights on a new horizon: self-flying taxis. Last month, Uber released a white paper detailing its strategy for a fleet of self-flying vertical takeoff and landing vehicles that can be hailed on demand. Now, airplane manufacturer, Airbus has unveiled its own plan to revolutionize urban transit: Project Vahana.

The project comes from A-3, Airbus’s advanced projects and partnerships outpost based in Silicon Valley. Project Vahana is an autonomous flying vehicle platform designed for individual passengers and cargo.

The initiative officially started in February, and since then A³ has decided on a vehicle design that calls for eight rotors on two sets of wings which tilt depending on whether the vehicle is flying vertically or horizontally. A full size prototype is due by the end of 2017 and A3 expects to have a beta product out by 2020. The biggest hurdle to this endeavor will be getting regulators to give Vahana the green light.

Still, Project Vahana is a stepping-stone for another aerial vehicle, an electrically operated platform concept for multiple passengers that goes by the working title of City Airbus. This bus-helicopter mashup would resemble a small drone in its basic design, and while initially a pilot would operate it, it would ultimately transition to full autonomous operation after regulations are in place and its safety is thoroughly vetted.

But first things first, A3 has to get Project Vahana off the ground, both figuratively and literally.