Futuristic movies and books have featured flying vehicles for many years, and technology has finally caught up with the human imagination. Companies are now designing cars that will take to the skies to provide us with commuting options. In February 2016, Airbus advanced on a project with a mission to solve the ever increasing traffic in urban areas. They aim to do this by creating the world’s first approved ‘air taxi,’ which will operate on a system similar to ordering an Uber, using a smartphone.
Project Vahana, as the undertaking has been named, currently faces many challenges. These include air traffic management hurdles, as well as structural requirements for such a vehicle. Spokespersons for Airbus have said that their aim is to work with several other companies in order to overcome these obstacles. They have already begun to take into consideration the regulations that the Federal Aviation Administration will be putting into place, in order to approve the use of flying vehicles.
With urban congestion predicted to increase by at least 10% by 2030, the company believe that millions of their innovative cars will be needed worldwide as a result. They have already designed and begun to build their first prototype. This VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) will operate similarly to a helicopter. Even though it will be equipped with self-piloting technology, the vehicle will be introduced with human behind the wheel, until the approval to have autonomous flight has been granted. Sense-and-avoid technology is relatively new in vehicles, and needs to be further tested in those that are airborne before they can be declared safe for public use. Currently drones, even though able to fly themselves, are not allowed to be in open air space without being monitored remotely by a human and the technology used to power larger vehicles is very similar.
In addition to the pilot, the expectation is that the vehicle will at first be able to carry a single passenger. A testing contract has been granted to the company and they have chosen to have their first trial flights in Singapore. Airbus has said that their aim is to begin testing their prototype by the end of 2017. They are well on their way to meeting this target, after which they plan to introduce the vehicles to commuters by 2020. They are confident that this will be the biggest solution to the current traffic problem that the world is experiencing.
Airbus is not the only company with this futuristic ambition, however, and their competitors are already working on similar designs. Google and Uber are just two of the others that have announced plans to release air commuting vehicles. Regardless of which company is able to release their design first, the only thing we can be sure of is that the future has already become the present.