Airbus' Flying Taxi Takes off for the First Time
Airbus announced a significant step in its flying taxi program. On Wednesday, its full-scale "flying car" Vahana took its first flight.
The Vahana completed two short flights over the last two days, said the company in a statement. The first saw it climb 16 feet and stay airborne for 53 seconds. It successfully completed a second flight on Thursday.
Similar to a helicopter, the Vahana is a VTOL, or vertical take off and landing, vehicle. The test flights occurred in Oregon at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range.
The aircraft resembles a remote control drone, although much bigger. It measures 20.3 feet long, 18.7 feet wide, 9.2 feet tall and features eight rotors. Similar to other flying car prototypes, the Vahana is powered by electricity. It can sit one person inside its black canopy.
The aircraft is "self-piloted," or autonomous, and this test flight was flown without a human in the vehicle.
Airbus hopes to use Vahana as a way to revolutionize urban travel.
"We anticipate speeds will be 2-4x faster than cars or traffic, and have a flight range of about 50 miles (80 km)," reads Vahana's website. And not just a way to shuttle individuals, the VTOL could act as a cargo delivery platform, ambulance, mobile hospital or limousine, says the company.
Vahana is a project of Airbus' Silicon Valley outpost, A3 (pronounced A-cubed). The vehicle was conceived, designed and a working prototype built in less than two years since A3 's founding.
"In just under two years, Vahana took a concept sketch on a napkin and built a full-scale, self-piloted aircraft that has successfully completed its first flight," said Zach Lovering, Vahana's project executive, in a statement.
With hovering now complete, the team will start testing transitions and forward flight. CNN reports that Vahana executives want to start selling the aircraft by 2020.
Other transportation companies like Uber and Bell Helicopters are working on their own VTOL taxi systems that could one day compete with Airbus' Vahana project.