Airbus is making progress on its new electric-powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft — colloquially (and incorrectly) known as a “flying car.” The European aerospace giant posted a series of photos today from its Vahana project, showing its team working on a pair of single-seat, tilt-rotor vehicles with a paint job that would make a Stormtrooper envious.
Airbus has said it wants to build a fleet of electric, autonomous, multirotor VTOL aircraft that can be used to fly from rooftop to rooftop in dense cities where traffic is often at a standstill. The project launched in early 2016 as one of the first pursuits of A³ (pronounced A-cubed), its Silicon Valley subsidiary. (Vahana is a Sanskrit word that refers to the vehicle or mount of a god.) Since then, the company has reported regular updates, including a concept video of the user experience.
In its post, the company says that a full-scale demonstrator is currently under production, with the goal of taking flight by the end of the year. The prototype was recently moved from California to a new flight test center in Pendleton, Oregon, where it will conduct its first demonstration. A³ has said it plans to have a production-ready version by 2020.
Airbus, which competes with the US-based Boeing, is best known for large jetliners like the double-decker A380. However, the flying car project shows that the Toulouse, France-based company is not above dabbling in some high-concept, and perhaps unrealistic, aviation ideas.
Vahana is only the latest attempt to achieve the long-held desire for personal flight. At least 19 companies are developing flying car plans, including legacy manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, and small startups like Kitty Hawk, owned by Google founder Larry Page. Uber recently announced it would be working with NASA to realize its goal of testing an aerial taxi service in 2020.
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