Airbus' Flying Car Concept Makes The Same Mistake As Every Other Flying Car

Artist’s rendering by Airbus
Artist’s rendering by Airbus

Airbus’ new driverless airborne taxi/gigantic drone concept looks great! It’s so cool to see a major air company work on what’s basically a flying car. Oh, wait, does this thing pass the two year test?


Airbus claims in their official press release that their quadcopter big enough to carry people will be called “CityAirbus,” and it will be part part of the company’s “Vahana” project.

They’ll fly in dedicated skyway tubes, and Airbus says they’ll start testing above the National University of Singapore in mid-to-late 2017, just a year from now.

Flight tests of the first vehicle prototype are slated for the end of 2017. As ambitious as that sounds, Lyasoff insists that it is feasible. “Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there,” explains the engineer. However, Vahana will likely also need reliable sense-and-avoid technology. While this is just starting to be introduced in cars, no mature airborne solutions currently exist.


The two-year test, if you’re not familiar, is that every single maker of a flying car claims that their work is just two years away. This is a point of humor to those who follow the flying car quasi-industry, as literally every single attempted project of the past decade has either never made it off the ground or crashed if it did.


As it turns out, producing a working, reliable, full-sized, FAA-approved flying vehicle on the scale and usability of an automobile is nigh-on impossible. They’re either too much like planes that are bad at driving, too much like cars that are bad at flying, or in the case of these new big boy drones, they don’t have the battery power to get anywhere. This leaves out the major issue of how difficult it is to manage all of these flying vehicles in the air over our cities without them hitting each other and crash landing onto our heads.


Everything from Terrafugia to Moller to now Airbus has been saying that their work is just around the corner, always close enough to make the headlines, always far enough away so that nobody holds them too accountable when the project gets caught up in endless delays.

Airbus’ work doesn’t look any different.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


For Sweden

If transporting everything by helicopter was economical, we’d be doing that right now.