Is It A Bird, A Plane? No, It’s … A Taxi?

Airbus announce plans to create driverless flying car

Multinational aerospace corporation Airbus, through their Silicon Valley outpost A^3, has announced plans to create a a self-piloted flying vehicle platform for individual passenger and cargo transport.Initial testing of Vahana, the name Airbus have given to this ambitious new project, is set to take place by the end of 2017; a clear demonstration of how serious the company are about revolutionising urban transport.

The need for such a creation is already evident; urban areas in every part in the world are suffering from severe congestion that is costing individuals, businesses and the local infrastructure both time and money. This problem is only going to get worse, as with both the total human population and the percentage of people living in cities set to increase significantly, the population of urban areas could increase from around 3.8 billion today to around 6.3 billion in 2050. Evidently solutions are required, and AirbusVahana may just be one of them.

As A^3 CEO Rodin Lyasoff points out, many of the technologies needed (for Vahana), such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there.We are at a point where creating a personal flying vehicle is not essentially that difficult, especially with the expertise of Airbus. There are two major challenges to overcome before Vahana can become reality though. The first is to create an autonomous driverless system with the same sense-and-avoidcapabilities as those that have been developed in the driverless cars of Uber and Tesla, but which is capable of operating in the air rather than on the ground, meaning that a new version of the roof mounted sensor that could detect potential dangers on all sides of the vehicle, would have to be developed.

The second is to devise a road map for the skies, a means of drawing up channels down which vehicles could fly in order that collisions and congestion can be avoided as far as possible. Aviation authorities already plot routes of travel for commercial airliners, helicopters and private jets, but if Airbusvision of personal flying vehicles becoming the new norm for millions of people is to be realised then a system must be developed within urban environments to allow thousands of such vehicles to travel safely side by side without danger.

[Tim Abrams]

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