Airbus plans to put a self-flying electric vehicle in the sky next year, with the aim of eventually launching a an automated flying taxi service.
The aviation company announced it has successfully tested the propulsion system for its multi-passenger, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) craft, CityAirbus. The test was the first step in the long pilot process before a prototype can actually take flight — the Airbus team will now begin to build a full-scale flight demonstrator of the CityAirbus concept.
It is to be mentioned that the prototype will first be tested on the ground, and Airbus engineers expect to be ready to power on all of its motors and electric systems in the first half of next year. Remotely piloted test flights are planned to launch at the end of 2018.
The CityAirbus will have a four-rotor design with eight motors powered by four batteries, with an estimated cruise speed of up to 75 mph. The crafts won’t be autonomous to start, when service first launches, they’ll be manually operated by certified pilots, so the public can get more comfortable with flying taxis before sending them on self-flying routes. The company hopes to begin passenger service in cities by 2023, with government certification and a new system of urban air traffic management in place to streamline the flights. CityAirbus isn’t the only eVTOL in the works from Airbus. The company has also showed off concept videos of a single-seat craft, Vahana, earlier this year from its forward-looking A³ initiative — but there’s no projected date for its launch. The Pop.Up multi-modal transportation concept Airbus outlined last March is likely even further out.
Airbus might be working toward for a 2018 test flight, but there are already other eVTOLs in the air. Startup Passenger Drone recently showed off footage from its first manned test flight, while Dubai’s autonomous taxi service launched a maiden test flight last month. The city plans to start service as early as 2022, beating Airbus’ 2023 target by a year.