Airbus looking at large drones, flying cars with tests starting 2023

Airbus has set itself a goal of having a serialized production Urban Air Mobility (UAM) system ready for testing in a major city as early as 2023. The company is investing in two UAM research programs, CityAirbus, being developed in Europe by Airbus Helicopters under the group’s chief technology office (CTO), and the Vahana being developed by the company’s Silicon Valley offshoot, A3.

Airbus has already carried out a successful trial in São Paulo of its helicopter ride-hailing service Voom, which aims to ease congestion by making helicopter travel more accessible and affordable. Elsewhere, teams from Silicon Valley to Europe and Asia are working to create entirely new vehicles. CityAirbus is an electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle for up to four passengers, while Vahana aims to create a similar mode of transport for individual travellers or cargo transport. In Singapore, the company is working with the country’s National University on the Skyways project to test a parcel transport system using autonomous drones.

While each mission has its own individual requirements, Thomsen says there is an overlap of several core technologies Airbus is developing. “Quite simply, in today’s environment, any new solution has to be electrically driven, so batteries and charging stations are indispensable. Vahana and, eventually, CityAirbus will be autonomous to help facilitate safe operation in busier airspace, making reliable sense-and-avoid technology an important aspect. And mass-produced lightweight composite structures will enable cost-effective vehicle construction across large scales.”

Pop.Up combines the flexibility of a small two-seater ground vehicle with the freedom and speed of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle, thus bridging the automotive and aerospace domains