Airbus’s Self-Flying “Cars” on Track for Testing Later This Year
Airbus CEO isn’t a Star Wars fan, but thinks self-flying aircrafts are a given.
Project Vahana is gearing up for take off. Airbus CEO Tom Enders said at the DLD digital tech conference in Munich that the company could launch its prototype self-flying taxi later this year, according to Reuters.
Several months ago, Airbus' Silicon Valley outpost A³ published its intentions to put a self-flying "car" in the sky in a bid to create a fleet of autonomous taxis that operate much like Uber or Lyft do today. The company has already decided on a design and is in the process of building a single-person Vertical Take Off and Landing vehicle that uses eight rotors on two sets of wings that tilt vertically and horizontally to propel the craft. The pilot of A3's VTOL will be the machine itself.
“In a not too distant future, we’ll use our smartphones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will land outside our front door – without any pilot,” Tom Enders said in Airbus' corporate magazine, Forum
A³'s CEO Rodin Lyasoff also stated in Forum that the majority of the technology and components, such as electric motors and batteries, are already available to build autonomous aircrafts. The sense and avoiding technology needed to help self-piloted VTOLs navigate air traffic is rapidly becoming available. The research branch is working with engineering partner MTSI to build its prototype, and it plans to test the vehicle at the SOAR Unmanned Aerial Systems test range in Oregon by the end of 2017. No firm commercial production timelines have been given by the company, but it roughly estimates that self-flying taxis will become a reality in 10 years.
“I’m no big fan of Star Wars, but it’s not crazy to imagine that one day our big cities will have flying cars making their way along roads in the sky,” said Enders in Forum.
The company is currently working with Uber on a helicopter ride sharing system, and setting its sights on the skyline may give the mobility company a competitive edge as more auto makers get into the ride-sharing game.