Airbus’s new Silicon Valley-based technology and business innovation team, called A³ (“A-cubed”, isn’t that cute?) has got some wacky plans up its sleeve, releasing new details for an autonomous personal aircraft it plans to show off in 2017. That’s not a lot of time, especially once you hear all that A³ has planned for this machine called “Vahana.”
On its new Vahana blog, A³ posted sketches and functional objectives for its “disruptive” new aircraft, whose goal it is to “enable truly vertical cities by opening up urban airways in a predictable and controlled manner.”.
For one, the machine— to be shown as a full-size prototype in 2017 and as a “productizable demonstrator by 2020"—will take off vertically, eliminating the need for a runway. The single passenger vehicle (or alternatively just a cargo-carrier) is also also going to be piloted autonomously so that it can “automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft.”
Other details are scarce, other than the fact that the flying machine will have a ballistic parachute in case of mechanical failure—you know, so you don’t fall out of the sky when you run out of fuel. But looking at the sketches, we can see a vehicle with two rotating wings, each affixed with four rotors, allowing for both vertical takeoff and horizontal flight.
The innovation team says now is the perfect time to look at this kind of transportation solution, as battery tech, composites material research, obstacle detection and avionics have all developed in ways that could enable such a transportation system to succeed.
But the group says its mission isn’t to produce the Vanaha for public consumption, but to help catalyze development of regulation that could allow automated aircrafts to be operated in the future.
Still, even if they’re not planning on a mass-produced model, they’ve only got a year to go before they’ve got to show us a full-size prototype, and as of now, the team says it’s only finished the design, “developed or procured many critical subsystems,” and reached out to external partners for help on design and manufacturing. That’s it.
Still, even if they’ve got a ways to go, the good news is that all their nerdy design work will be open-source and shared on the team’s blog.