When you commute to your office in the morning, you know that you are going to get stuck in rush-hour traffic. Governments around the world are giving full beans to the necessary cause of decongestion in urban areas. But, the current effort towards that is either incorporating expansion of roads or implementing traffic rules that limit vehicular movement. That is not only inconvenient but an impermanent solution to a serious issue. However, Airbus has a brilliant way to eradicate this issue from the scene.
The Airbus A3 advanced technology lab is working on a project, codenamed Vahana, which will see the development of an autonomous flying taxi operating on electric power alone. Taking inspiration from helicopters, Vahana is basically an electric-powered, tilt-rotor aircraft capable of landing at heliports. It will operate on batteries that can give it a flying range of 60 miles at a speed of 140 mph. With improved battery technology in the future, the range could be extended as well.
Each air taxi would have an inbuilt camera, radar and lidar sensors to give it a 360-degree sphere of awareness. A computer would process the sensor data and identify obstacles in the path of the air taxi. Since aircraft don't have brakes, the computer would have to figure out ways to get around objects like birds or other aircraft. The aircraft would likely be in communication with other aircraft, figuring out the safest paths. Airbus says that since the aircraft will be guided by computers instead of humans, a seamless air traffic could be ensured in the skies, avoiding dangers of collisions and accidents.
Project Vahana is scheduled to take its first test flight later in the year. However, Airbus could only point out at a later 2020 launch date as it feels that the computers need to develop a bit more to handle the complex tasks of piloting a small aircraft on its own....