Airbus to Build a Personal Airplane by 2020
The aerospace giant's Silicon Valley outpost is looking beyond Ubers and self-driving cars.
There are self-driving cars, there are drones, and then there is the Vahana project, an Airbus- funded venture that hopes to build the first certified passenger aircraft that doesn't require a pilot.
The idea is reminiscent of flying car designs from the 1950s: as urban areas grow ever more congested, their denizens need easy-to- operate, inexpensive craft that can take off and land vertically, delivering them safely to their destination and avoiding the traffic chaos below.
The Vahana engineers are working at A3, Airbus's Silicon Valley incubator, and they believe that there's no better time like the present to implement that decades-old dream. According to a Medium post last month, they hope to have a full-size prototype before the end of 2017, and a marketable design by 2020.
The battery-powered planes would essentially be aerial taxis, following pre-determined flight paths and avoiding obstacles on their way to drop off and pick up passengers. Conceptual design drawings show room for just one passenger underneath a retractable canopy reminiscent of a fighter jet.
Borrowing a safety feature from light aircraft like the Cirrus SR20, the Vahana plane would include a parachute that would deploy in the event of a severe malfunction.