Flying and/or self-driving cars have long been the mascot of The Future, and now a new deal from Airbus has brought them one step closer to reality.
Airbus’s innovation division, A³, revealed Project Vahana earlier this year, a single-seater AI-piloted flying vehicle, a kind of personal helicopter, and is hoping to have a full-sized prototype in the air by the end of 2017, with a view to it hitting the market by 2020.
The company has now struck a deal with two companies, SOAR Oregon and MTSI (Modern Technology Solutions), to test the vehicle. The latter will lead the flight test effort, while the former provides test range support. Their chief task is to iron out any major risks of the technology.
The Project Vahana self-flying vehicle is being designed to carry either passengers or cargo.
‘At Vahana, we are passionate about personal flight,’ A³ chief executive Rodin Lyasoff writes on the Vahana website. ‘The aircraft we’re building doesn’t need a runway, is self-piloted, and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft.’
Airbus plans to work with Uber to create a fleet of flying taxis, called CityAirbus, with passengers able to summon a ride using their smartphone. When they first launch, the flying taxis will be operated by a pilot, until national regulations allow for autonomous flight.
‘Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors, and avionics are most of the way there,’ says Lyasoff. ‘In as little as ten years, we could have products on the market that revolutionise urban travel for millions of people.’