Airbus successfully conducted the first test of the prototype Vahana – a fully electric aircraft with the possibility of vertical take-off and landing. In the future, the device is planned to be used as an unmanned aerial taxi. The first flight passed low and not for long. The flying means climbed to a height of five meters, held in the air for 53 seconds, after which it made a soft landing.
Earlier, the company announced its desire to create a fleet of unmanned multi-engine VTOL (aircraft with the possibility of vertical take-off and landing), which can be used as a flying taxi in the cities loaded with ground traffic. The cost of using it will be comparable to the cost of an ordinary car or train. The project for the development of the prototype of a flying vehicle began in early 2016, and it is conducted by A³, the daughter of Airbus. Since then, the company has provided only superficial information.
The testing of a full-scale flying device, called Alpha One, was planned to be carried out before the end of 2017. The device was recently transported from California to a new test site in Oregon, where it was tested. According to the developer, a flying taxi ready for flights will be presented by 2020. Prototype aerotaksi has a length of 6.2 meters, a width of 5.7 meters (according to the span of the wing) and a height of 2.8 meters. The maximum takeoff weight of the device is 745 kilograms.
“Two years later, Vahana from a conceptual sketch on a napkin turned into a full-scale aircraft that successfully completed its first flight,” commented Zak Lavering, one of the company’s developers.
“Our goal is to democratize personal transport using the latest technologies, such as electrical motion, energy storage and machine vision,” the engineer added.
Earlier, the Vahana development team stated that, in addition to taxis, VTOL could in the future act as a cargo delivery platform, an ambulance or search and rescue device.
Airbus said that the testing of the device will now move in the direction of tests of hovering in the air and the possibility to change the direction of flight.