French aerospace company Airbus has turned its attention from long-haul passenger aircraft to finding a solution for a more local problem, traffic congestion in large cities.
Its answer, a flying car. FINALLY!
Airbus calls it Project Vahana, “an autonomous flying vehicle platform for individual passenger and cargo transport”, and the consortium’s feasibility studies have listed the success of the project as being favourable.
The vehicle is best described as a passenger-sized drone and flight tests are slated for the end of 2017 as the majority of technology required is already available. The biggest challenge comes from an airborne detect and avoidance system, similar to that used in cars like the Tesla Model S and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. We would all agree that it is a pretty crucial component to get right.
While there are no legal or technical precedents to allow the flying of ‘pilotless’ aircraft over population centres, the Airbus team is forging ahead with the project and has an agreement with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to conduct scale testing of drones over the University of Singapore in mid-2017.
The full-scale vehicle, called CityAirbus, would feature multiple propellors to exhibit flying behaviour similar to a drone or helicopter. The CityAirbus will initially be flown by a pilot, but will be developed with autonomous flying in mind.