Project Vahana: Airbus will test flying cars by the end of 2017

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Rush-hour traffic is unbearable for many commuters today – and the problem is growing. By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities, which is 10% more than today. To address this rising concern, Airbus is harnessing its experience to make the dream of all commuters and travellers come true one day: to fly over traffic jams at the push of a button.

Airbus experts across the organisation are looking skywards to develop three ambitious projects that aim to relieve urban congestion. Although each initiative is distinct, knowledge sharing across the initiatives is a given. One of the 3 projects is Vahana:

Project Vahana by A^3

Participating in these efforts is A^3, the company’s advanced projects and partnerships outpost located in the gridlocked Valley. A^3 CEO Rodin Lyasoff, project executive Zach Lovering and their team are actively pursuing Vahana, a self-piloted flying vehicle platform for individual passenger and cargo transport.

Flight tests of the first vehicle prototype are slated for the end of 2017. As ambitious as that sounds, 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.

Transport service providers are one target group for such vehicles. The system could operate similarly to car-sharing applications, with the use of smartphones to book a vehicle. “We believe that global demand for this category of aircraft can support fleets of millions of vehicles worldwide,” estimates Lyasoff.

At these quantities, development, certification, and manufacturing costs go down. And in terms of market entry, Lyasoff is equally confident: “In as little as ten years, we could have products on the market that revolutionise urban travel for millions of people.” A^3 is powering ahead with Vahana and as is typical for Silicon Valley, the company thinks in terms of weeks, not years. Officially underway since February 2016, the project’s team of internal and external developers and partners have agreed on a vehicle design and is beginning to build and test vehicle subsystems.

Read more on the Airbus website: http://www.airbusgroup.com/int/en/news-media/corporate-magazine/Forum-88/My-Kind-Of-Flyover.html

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