Airbus has announced it has completed work on Vahana urban air vehicle programme.
“On 14 November 2019, the final page of the Vahana story was written at the Pendleton UAS Range in Oregon, USA. Here, Vahana took its final test flight to the cheers (and some tears) of all those who have closely contributed to its extraordinary development,” says an Airbus press release. “Now as the dust settles on Vahana’s final flight, the next chapter in urban air mobility at Airbus is already taking shape.
Zach Lovering, VP of UAM Systems at Airbus and head of Vahana, highlighted the programme’s three main objectives:
- Designing a fully operational eVTOL vehicle: A sketch on a napkin is one thing, but proving the technical viability of the configuration is quite another. The project team pushed its idea of a tilt-wing configuration with a suitable battery-to-electric-motor solution to the limits. When Vahana took its first flight in 2018, the leap from concept to reality was a success.
- Proving the viability of self-piloting technologies: Vahana was launched at a time when real-time detect-and-avoid capabilities on small aircraft were considered a pipedream. Today, Vahana is fully capable of autonomously detecting airborne and ground hazards. The project was thus instrumental in helping to de-risk core elements of autonomy for urban air mobility vehicles and gave rise to Wayfinder, an ambitious autonomous flight technology project at Acubed.
- Developing an eVTOL business case: What is the total operating cost of eVTOLs? How does it compare to traditional helicopters or taxis? What is the value for the community? How should they be certified? All of these questions need to be ironed out to create a compelling business case. And Vahana offers rich learnings in this respect.
The project team for CityAirbus—the second eVTOL demonstrator in the Airbus portfolio—will continue its flight test campaign throughout 2020 to be able to bring fresh insight to the concept development table.