Airbus Developing Self-Driving Airborne Taxi Drone Vehicles For Testing This Year, Deployment In 2020
It appears that consumers are just now getting used to the idea of self-driving cars. Many mainstream car companies are offering vehicles with lane-keep assist, automatic cruise control, and auto braking. In addition, companies like Tesla and Waymo have made serious inroads in bringing fully autonomous vehicles closer to production reality. But what about self-flying aircraft? Are we ready for that?
According to Airbus, that autonomous flying future will soon be upon us to spare people from bumper-to-bumper traffic along the motorways. The company has embarked on Project Vahana, which is a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft similar in concept to the V-22 Osprey, but on a much smaller scale. According to Project Vahana director Zach Lovering, the all-electric aircraft would be capable of carrying just a single passenger and could enter production by the start of the next decade.
Think of Vahana as an “Uber for the Skies”, as you could likely use your smartphone to summon a drone, which would then come and carry you to your destination.
Surprisingly, Airbus is actually quite far along in development with Vahana, and expects to begin its first flight tests by the end of 2017. “Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there,” said Rodin Lyasoff, CEO of Airbus partner A^3. He went on to explain that collision avoidance systems that are prevalent in today’s cars are not quite as mature in aircraft. “That’s one of the bigger challenges we aim to resolve as early as possible.”
“We believe that global demand for this category of aircraft can support fleets of millions of vehicles worldwide,” added Lyasoff. “In as little as ten years, we could have products on the market that revolutionize urban travel for millions of people.”
While an ambitious endeavor like Project Vahana seems like something out of reach, and like a prop from The Jetsons, rapids advancement in technology is about to make such transportation feasible.