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Airbus may be known for the large jets that split the market about half and half with Boeing, but now it wants to break into a whole different market — one that doesn’t exist yet.

The European consortium says its CityAirbus, a flying electric taxi being developed by Airbus Helicopters, is set to take its first flight in 2018.

The announcement comes after Airbus successfully completed the first full-scale testing for the flying taxi — which it calls “a multi-passenger, self-piloted electric vertical take-off and landing” vehicle, designed for urban air mobility.

During the tests, Airbus conducted extensive ground checks of the performance of the entire demonstrator. The flying taxi has been designed to carry up to four passengers, and Airbus says it’ll be best put to use over congested megacities such as New York City. The idea is to enable fast access to places such as airports or train stations, while being environmentally friendly.

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CityAirbus is meant to fly on fixed routes (“Skyways”) with a top cruising speed of 120 kmh, 0r 74 mph.

Marius Bebesel, CityAirbus chief engineer, said that while the test aircraft will be remotely piloted, a test pilot will be on board in the early days of the project to make getting certification from civil aviation authorities easier. However, the long-term intention is for CityAirbus to be fully autonomous. 

Airbus is not alone in the development of such a vehicle. Last month in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai’s first public test of the city’s pilotless flying taxi took place, and elsewhere a  German start-up known as Lilium, a project founded by four university students, secured $90 million in funding from tech entrepreneurs to develop a flying taxi.

But don’t rush to book your flying taxi to the airport yet. While aerospace companies and start-ups are enthusiastic about the potential for these urban transporters,  there’s still a long way to go in terms of regulation and certification.

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