Airbus, the world’s largest maker of commercial helicopters, plans to test a prototype of a flying car by the end of the year.
The aerospace group will test a version of the technology dubbed Vahana that carries a single rider and functions much like a self-driving taxi. Airbus hopes to have a production model ready by 2021.
“Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there,” according to division CEO Rodin Lyasoff. He added that “reliable sense-and-avoid technology,” just showing up now in cars, is one of their target challenges.
Airbus formed an Urban Air Mobility division last year that is exploring concepts such as an airborne vehicle used to transport individuals or a helicopter-style machine that can carry multiple people. The production vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle called CityAirbus would use multiple tilt-rotors to take off and land like a helicopter, but fly more like a propeller-driven airplane.
Such vehicles will reduce traffic on city roads and reduce costs for city infrastructure planners. The company is also committed to making the cars 100% electric, which will reduce the carbon footprint of the technology.