Airbus Awards Contract For Autonomous Aircraft
A3, the Airbus advanced-projects group based in Silicon Valley, has contracted with two local companies who are tasked with developing a flying prototype of an autonomous electric taxi aircraft by the end of next year. Modern Technology Solutions Inc. (MTSI) will lead the flight-test effort, and Soar Oregon will provide test-range support and other services. “This unique air vehicle will challenge traditional flight-test methodologies,” said Paul Linnell, who will direct the project for MTSI. A3 officials have said they plan to have a production-line-ready demonstrator ready by 2020, and could have a product ready for the market in 10 years. They foresee a demand for millions of the vehicles worldwide.
At its website for the project, called Vahana, A3 says they aim to create “the first certified passenger aircraft without a pilot.” Their goal is “to help enable truly vertical cities by opening up urban airways in a predictable and controlled manner.” The fully automated vehicles will minimize human error, according to the website, to maximize safety. “We believe this mode of operation will be compatible with future airspace management systems and will allow more aircraft to share the sky,” the website says. “Full automation also enables us to make our aircraft as small and light as possible, and will significantly reduce manufacturing costs.”