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Airbus flying taxi takes to the air
Vahana first flight. © Airbus

Airbus flying taxi takes to the air

The self-piloted, eVTOL aircraft from A³ by Airbus, successfully completed its first full-scale test flight on 31st January.

Vahana. © A3

Vahana, the all-electric, self-piloted, VTOL aircraft from A³ by Airbus, has announced the successful completion of its first full-scale flight test, reaching a height of 5m. The test was completed at the Pendleton UAS Range in Pendleton, Oregon. The company says that the milestone comes less than two years after the initial “concept sketch on a napkin”.

The first flight, with a duration of 53 seconds, was fully self-piloted, and the vehicle is reported to have completed a second flight the following day. Following the initial hover flights, additional testing will include transitions and forward flight.

The test aircraft measures 5.7m in length, with a wingspan of 6.2m and a takeoff weight of 745kg. It is equipped with eight rotors/propellers mounted four each on forward and aft wings. The vehicle is being designed for flights up to 80km.

Vahana is a project developed at A³, the advanced projects and partnerships outpost of Airbus in Silicon Valley. A³ aims to identify innovative ideas and bring them rapidly to fruition. Vahana, the company says, aims to democratize personal flight and answer the growing need for urban mobility using the latest technologies in electric propulsion, energy storage, and machine vision.

Meanwhile, the company is also working on sense-and-avoid technology that will be vital for operations in crowded and obstacle-rich urban environments. The goal is to ensure 3D coverage around the vehicle to provide situational awareness, and the ability to see obstacles about 2 km away. As currently envisaged, Vahana will relay on a redundant, multimodal sensing setup, comprising cameras, Lidar and radar.

Airbus is also pursuing the CityAirbus air taxi concept, which aims to develop a multi-passenger electric VTOL vehicle.

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