Airbus is taking action to build a self-driven flying taxi that should be up and running by this time next year. I think it is safe to say the future has just about arrived. The creator of these airborne transportation vehicles is planning on testing their prototype by mid-to-late 2017. Airbus CEO Tom Enders is excited about the introduction of the small urban transportation vehicle designed for single-passengers.
Airbus has been developing its autonomous vehicle take-off and landing (VTOL) concept through an internal project designed to test viability and refine a prototype for urban air transport formally called Project Vahana. Airbus is taking Vahana very seriously as a solution such as airborne transit would be immensely beneficial for alleviating congestion caused by the transport of goods and passengers. Air-transport could forever change how urban planners design cities.
Vahana aims to have a viable production aircraft for short-haul trips ready by 2021 which makes having a working prototype ready by the end of this year a very sensible timeline. Airbus previously stated a desire to have a full-scale prototype ready sometime in 2017. CEO Tom Enders appears to be committed to holding his company to that timeline which includes active flight testing. The vehicle will most likely use a four-rotor design with variable positioning to allow vertical take off followed by forward propelling – a transition that is not necessarily an easy feat.
The design process is currently working around what is most efficient and feasible when working with an electronic motor. Airbus does not want to use a regular car engine so that if the vehicles are deployed, they will not harm the environment and speed up global warming. The idea of owning or even witnessing a flying car (that even flies itself) may seem outlandish but Airbus believes they would be ignoring a category that has great potential to take off in the near future. Given the pace and progress of autonomous vehicles and technological advancement, the time for such a system to be introduced is now.
Even if Airbus is able to produce a fully-functioning prototype, getting it through proper regulation could prove to be the biggest hurdle. Transporting live humans by flying drone is still prohibited in dense metropolitan areas and it will be difficult to prove its safety in respect to all parties involved.
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