The cool Airbus Vahana Project is ready for flight testing, right on the heels of Boeing, Uber, and others jumping into the electric plane game. Electric airplanes and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft taking off.
When The Cool Airbus Vahana Is Ready For Flight Testing
Media press releases are not tapering off with electric airplanes (e-planes) and VTOLs. Practically every week has a related story or another flight test being conducted. You’d think we would be a year away from flying high above our congested highway problems. Although we’re not quite there yet, Airbus will not be left behind and have the limelight taken by its competitors, the new kids on the block.
We’ve written about the Airbus Vahana previously here. Vahana.Aero, Airbus’ VTOL project, is taking to the skies for real test flights. The Airbus Vahana team was previously working in Santa Clara, California, where it was headquartered, and is now moving further up north to Oregon into its new home at the Pendleton Hangar facility at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport. You can read more about the journey up north on the company’s blog.
Technically speaking, the Airbus Vahana is meant to be quickly disassembled and re-assembled. And to prove the point, the Airbus team was able to do that in less than a day. And if you thought that was good, they expect to improve upon in the near future.
The Airbus Vahana Project
Unlike its other competitors, the Airbus Vahana project is a little more down to Earth, no pun intended. The project started in early 2016 by the team’s A³ members. And that’s pronounced “A-cubed,” should you wonder. The project is part of Airbus’ many projects, which also include Voom, hailed as the world’s first truly on-demand helicopter booking platform. Voom wants this service to be not only affordable but convenient enough to book and take off in as little as 60 minutes for up to 80% less than other helicopter services would charge. Think of it as a direct Uber Elevate competitor.
Among other projects is Project Transpose, which is really about redefining the future of commercial flight, something we’re all hoping for! The project is led by Jason Chua. You can read more about it here and here.
And finally, there’s Altiscope, a project aiming at unmanned aircraft system (UAS) integration into airspace. It is, broadly speaking, a simulator for evaluating policy options and operational models for ATM systems that can service all forms of airborne traffic in a wide range of geographies and jurisdictions.
But the Vahana project is what we’re really interested in. And the Airbus Vahana project claims it won’t need a runway, will be self-piloted, and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft. We’re glad the company mentions that last part since we wouldn’t have expected anything less. And while other VTOL projects are designed to carry two or more passengers, the Vahana project limits itself to a single passenger or cargo.
The company had planned to fly a full-size prototype before the end of 2017 with a productizable demonstrator by 2020, and so far, it is on target. More to the point, Airbus believes that since battery safety and energy density are now adequate enough for air flight, low-cost, reliable avionics are also heralding a new age of UAVs. Where technology has made leaps and bounces is with obstacle detection and avoidance technology. It is now considered safe enough to allow for an aircraft takeoff and landing while avoiding collisions in flight.
According to the company, recent advances in automated composite manufacturing and assembly mean lightweight vehicles can be produced at high volumes with low enough costs compared to traditional aerospace manufacturing. This is what Airbus is really banking on. The Boeing 787 using mostly carbon and other resin fibers has proven this point, much as the BMW i3 has done the same in the automotive industry.
And if you speak German…
Making Sense of the Airbus Vahana Project and What It Means To Us
You know the drill. VTOLs will save us from congested highways. Electric airplanes are now good enough to take 2 to 4 people into hour-long flights. Airbus is banking on a pragmatic one-man solution VTOL that will take off and land anywhere.
We’re excited to see so many projects headed by big players in the aerospace field as well as startups challenging conventions and surrounding themselves with top-notch aviation engineers. The Airbus Vahana is not only on time, it is practical as well.
You can follow the Airbus Vhana project on Twitter.