Advancing to the future: Airbus aims to create its "flying taxi" Vahana by 2020

Airbus recently unveiled its blueprint to build up a flying taxi with the project name “Vahana”.

    Nov 02, 2016 11:00 PM  PT
Advancing to the future: Airbus aims to create its
author: Claire   

With the advancement of technology, we sometimes feel the future's rapidly approaching footsteps. The flying taxi in the film "The Fifth Element" seemed so futuristic we thought it could only exist in our imaginations. But now it may actually become reality. 

A³ or "A-Cubed," the Silicon Valley outpost of Airbus Group based in San Jose was founded just six months ago. The company recently unveiled its blueprint to build a flying taxi with the project name "Vahana." It has a streamlined look and is a self-flying aircraft that seats one passenger under a canopy. The canopy is retractable, similar to a motorcycle helmet visor. The flying vehicle can be summoned like an Uber, using smartphone. It looks like a futuristic flying machine you might find in science fiction books or similarly themed movies. 

According to CNN Money, the conceptual design suggests the air taxis will take off and land vertically, as there are helicopter-like struts, and tilting wings each with four electric motors.

"At Vahana, we are passionate about personal flight. The aircraft we're building doesn't need a runway, is self-piloted, and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft," chief executive Rodin Lyasoff wrote on the Vahana website.

He further mentioned that the flying machine is designed to carry a single passenger or cargo, but their bigger aim is to make the air taxi the first certified passenger aircraft without a pilot.

The project began earlier this year, and is one of the first projects at A3. In February, Airbus also announced a new project called "Skyways" in which they are creating a parcel-delivery system above the University of Singapore campus. They hope to conduct its first flight tests on that same campus by 2017. 

Although this seemed like a bold trial, the team at Vahana doesn't wish to let the public wait for long. They aim to have a full-sized prototype in the air by the end of 2017 and a model for sale on the market by 2020. Airbus group also noted last year that one of Vahana's first projects will be working with Uber to create a new business model for helicopter operators.

"Full automation also enables us to make our aircraft as small and light as possible, and will significantly reduce manufacturing costs,"

"Beyond developing the vehicle itself, we're seeking to move key technology categories forward, foster development of the regulatory regime for the certification and operation of automated aircraft, and to otherwise nurture an ecosystem that will help enable the vertical cities of the future," says Lyasoff.

However, safety issues could be a major question revolving around the design. Vahana claims that there's an onboard "ballistic parachute that works even at low altitudes."

Humans who are willing to test this flying machine will need courage. Since the flying taxi only sits in one person, how much will the cost be to fly around Silicon Valley? Will it simply become a billionaire's new toy or can it really meet the public needs of relieving urban congestion? We'll have to wait for the answers to unfold. For now, there's always "The Fifth Element."