French aircraft conglomerate, Airbus, is developing an autonomous flying car, with the first prototype expected to take flight as early as 2017.
No, this is apparently not an April Fool's joke... An idea that only a few years ago seemed unreal, is now becoming a reality. Do you remember the AeroMobil flying car from 2014? Well, Airbus is developing an autonomous flying car that will be designed to carry cargo or passengers. A prototype is likely to undergo testing in 2017 and Airbus believes that the autonomous air-going vehicle could be in service within the next 10 years.
An autonomous vehicle platform called Vahana, developed by A3 at Airbus’ high-tech facility in Silicon Valley is central to the project and as you can expect, a number of technical and legal issues need to be fleshed out before the autonomous vehicle can take to the skies.
Vahana head, Rodin Lyasoff said: “Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors, and avionics are most of the way there.” However, the detection and avoidance systems needed for an aircraft to operate autonomously are well behind those already in use in cars. “That’s one of the bigger challenges we aim to resolve as early as possible,” Lyasoff added.
Autonomous aircraft regulations are also a challenge, as drones without a remote pilot are currently not allowed to fly over any city in the world.
The proposed autonomous aircraft would carry passengers and cargo on a ride-sharing basis as per Uber and we could very well see a partnership develop between Airbus and Uber when (or if) this project ever gets off the ground.
Lyasoff concludes, “We believe that global demand for this category of aircraft can support fleets of millions of vehicles worldwide. In as little as ten years, we could have products on the market that revolutionise urban travel for millions of people.”