We’re still waiting for the future promised to us by The Jetsons, but this slick concept design from Airbus is the flying car could actually hit the skies by the end of the year. Vahana/ Project Vahana by A^3 is a self-piloted flying vehicle platform for individual passenger and cargo transport, a flying car concept developped by Airbus Group.
Project Vahana started in early 2016 as one of the first projects at A³ (pronounced “A-cubed”), the advanced projects and partnerships outpost of Airbus Group in Silicon Valley.
“Companies such as e-volo, Joby Aviation, Zee.Aero, Aurora Flight Sciences and even NASA are working on prototypes. That’s striking is that many of these players are newcomers. Meanwhile, we’re hearing very little from the usual suspects. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s nothing going on there: they may be operating in stealth mode,” says Matthieu Repellin, investment partner at Airbus Ventures.
Vahana is trying to create an aircraft that is the “first certified passenger aircraft without a pilot”. “The aircraft we’re building doesn’t need a runway, is self-piloted, and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft,” Airbus said at the time of its announcement. Concept drawings for the Vahana vehicle show an eight-rotor aircraft, which has wings at the front and rear. The company has completed design work and is working with a number of external partners. It hopes to have a production-ready aircraft by 2021.
Flight tests of the first vehicle prototype are slated for the end of 2017. As ambitious as that sounds, A^3 CEO Robert Lyasoff insists that it is feasible. “Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there,” he explains. However, Vahana also requires reliable sense-and-avoid technology. While this is just starting to be introduced in cars, no mature airborne solutions currently exist. “That’s one of the bigger challenges we aim to resolve as early as possible,” says Lyasoff.