Airbus takes a step closer to driverless ‘flying taxis’

Source: Airbus

A driverless flying taxi developed by aerospace giant Airbus has taken one step closer to reality with the awarding of a testing contract.

Airbus has previously claimed the so-called "Vahana" project will build and test an autonomous flying vehicle by the end of 2017.

Leading the effort is A3, Airbus's innovation division located in Silicon Valley. To bring testing to reality, U.S. technology and defense firms, MTSI and SOAR Oregon have been jointly awarded the Flight Test and Range contract.

In a press release Thursday, MTSI said the contract covers the prototype "Alpha phase".

"[This] seeks to identify and resolve major technical and certification risks, culminating in a flight demonstration at the end of 2017.

"A3's mission is to disrupt Airbus Group and the rest of the aerospace industry," the statement reads.

Source: Airbus

In August, Airbus released an article claiming the project was making good progress.

"Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there," explained Airbus project executive Rodin Lyasoff in the company's online magazine.

Airbus believes the global demand for the "flying cars" will run in to millions of vehicles and that demand will help reduce development costs.

"In as little as 10 years, we could have products on the market that revolutionize urban travel for millions of people," said Lyasoff.

Lyasoff added that one major challenge would be to secure reliable technology to ensure the "autonomous taxis" can sense and avoid other objects.

And the futuristic project has public backing from Airbus chief executive Tom Enders

"I'm no big fan of Star Wars, but it's not crazy to imagine that one day our big cities will have flying cars making their way along roads in the sky," Tom Enders said in the article.

"In a not too distant future, we'll use our smartphones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will land outside our front door – without any pilot."