Aerospace giant Airbus' Vahana electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft called as Alpha One, completed its first autonomous test flight on 31 January. At 8:52AM, the full-scale vehicle reached a modest height of five meters (16 feet) before descending safely. The self-piloted flight only lasted 53 seconds, but it is a reminder that “flying taxi” mobility projects we hear a lot about these days, while sounding ludicrous, can’t be easily dismissed as vaporware.
The aircraft is a result of two years of planning and building, after Airbus announced the project in early 2016 as part of its A^3 (pronounced A Cubed) a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary, according to The Verge. Fun fact, the word "Vahana" is taken from the Sanskrit language and means a vehicle or god's mount.
"In just under two years, Vahana took a concept sketch on a napkin and built a full-scale, self-piloted aircraft that has successfully completed its first flight," said Zach Lovering, project executive of Vahana. “Our goal is to democratize personal flight by leveraging the latest technologies such as electric propulsion, energy storage, and machine vision. Our first flights mark a huge milestone for Vahana as well as the global pursuit of urban air mobility.”
According to the company, Alpha One is 20.3 feet wide, 18.7 feet long, 9.2 feet tall, and weighs 1,642 pounds.
Future tests will further validate the company's technology and the prototype will eventually test the transition from hovering a few feet off the ground to forward flight. Vahana has to master that transition if it wants to fly passengers from the rooftops of skyscrapers in crowded cities.
Boeing is also rapidly advancing technology for future air taxis. The aerospace giant last year acquired Aurora Flight Sciences, a maker of automated drones and aviation parts.