February 2nd, 2018
The race is most certainly heating up in the world of autonomous flying taxis. From the Intel-backed Volocopter's recent debut at CES to Ehang's autonomous passenger drone, what seemed like a crazy sci-fi idea just a few short years ago is rapidly becoming reality.
The latest leap forward comes from Airbus and A³ with the first successful, full-scale test flight of its single passenger, self-piloted, electric VTOL aircraft called Vahana.
The Vahana project is relatively new compared to much of its competition with Airbus only launching the project two short years ago. To move from concept sketch on a napkin to a working prototype in such a short time is undeniably a remarkable achievement.
The full-scale aircraft tested was dubbed Alpha One and its first flight was completely self-piloted, lasting 53 seconds and reaching a modest height of 5 m (16 ft). The test aircraft measured 5.7 m (18.7 ft) long, 6.2 m (20.3 ft) wide and 2.8 m (9.2 ft) high and had a takeoff weight of 745 kg (1,642 lb). The next stages for testing will involve transitioning from vertical to forward flight.
There are undeniably many hurdles, both technically and regulatory, that need to be overcome before these things are set loose in the airspace over our cities ,but the pace of development seen in the Vahana, and others, is truly startling. So much so, it isn't unreasonable to expect to see autonomous flying taxis in our skies within the next 10 years.