Airbus is moving forward with its solution for rush hour traffic: self-flying taxis.
It might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but Airbus expects to begin testing it first prototype vehicle by the end of 2017.
The aircraft manufacturer says that flying taxis will be crucial by 2030, when it's estimated that 50% of the world's population will live in cities, which is 10% more than today.
Airbus, which always strives to operate at the bleeding-edge of travel technology, aims to make its flying taxis, called CityAirbus, fly autonomously, i.e. without a pilot behind the controls.
For the purpose of the first flight tests, however, to be conducted on the University of Singapore campus, the CityAirbus will be manually operated, given that no country in the world today allows drones without remote pilots to fly over cities – with or without passengers.
It might all sound a bit surreal to be talking about what are essentially flying cars, but Airbus suggests that the foundations are in place.
"Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there," Rodin Lyasoff, the Airbus executive in charge of the project, said in an article titled 'Future of urban mobility: My kind of flyover'.
Flying taxis would 'revolutionise urban travel for millions of people'
As well as flying taxis, Project Vahana will also see the creation of an electric, autonomous helicopter, which Airbus plans to roll out for both commercial and personal use.
However, Lyasoff acknowledged that Vahana will need reliable sense-and-avoid technology for it to properly take off. This technology is just starting to be introduced in cars, but no mature airborne solutions currently exists.
"That's one of the bigger challenges we aim to resolve as early as possible," said Lyasoff.
He remains confident, though, that in just ten years' time, we could have products on the market that "revolutionise urban travel for millions of people".
Airbus envisages the flying taxi service will work in a similar way to Uber, with customers able to book one on their smartphones and it will land outside their front door, without any pilot.
We'll be following this project with interest!
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