Airbus has announced plans to test its new electric-powered jet by the end of 2017. Known as the Vahana, it’s not just any ordinary jet. Airbus’ latest project is capable of performing full vertical take offs and landing. In fact, it’s even being called the “flying car” in reference to its size and characteristics.
Earlier this month, Airbus published photos of its Vahana jet in which engineers are shown working on it. Unfortunately, the photos don’t reveal much about the craft or how it works. They do, however, offer a sneak peak into Airbus’ secretive project.
It’s important to note that the Vahana isn’t a full-sized jet. On the contrary, it’s capable of carrying just a single passenger or cargo. It small size actually offers some benefits, though. Conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that smaller planes weigh less than their larger counterparts. And because the Vahana is lightweight, it’s also energy efficient.
Perhaps the most notable feature of Airbus’ Vahana project is its self-piloting technology. Self-driving cars are expected to take over U.S. highways in the near future. However, we may also see self-piloting planes in the skies, including the Vahana. The Vahana doesn’t require a human pilot like conventional planes. It’s piloted by an on-board computer; thus, creating a safer flight experience while eliminating the possibility for human error.
Of course, some people might be skeptical of flying aboard a self-piloting plane, believing it increases the risk of an accident. Well, Airbus says that its Vahana jet is designed to follow predetermined flight paths. The only time when the Vahana will deviate from course is when it detects an obstacle.
“Vahana sits at the convergence of trends in urban demographics and rapid improvements in batteries, advanced sensors, mass-produced lightweight composite structures, and more,” wrote Airbus on its website. “We seek to help enable truly vertical cities by opening up urban airways in a predictable and controlled manner. We believe that full automation will allow us to achieve higher safety by minimizing human error. ”
Airbus has moved its Vahana plane from its California facility to a test center in Oregon. Although Airbus said it plans to test the Vahana jet by the end of the year, it won’t be production for quite some time. Airbus says it will likely have a production-ready version of the Vahana by 2020. And even then, it will take the company a while to build and deliver the units.