The Airbus team A^3, or A-cubed, based in Silicon Valley, plans to start flight tests of a prototype of its full-scale VTOL air-taxi, Vahana,in November, according to a report this week by KUOW. The flight tests will be conducted from the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport, in Pendleton, where the company recently occupied a new 9,600-square-foot hangar. The hangar has been specifically configured to support Vahana, according to the company’s blog. It was also announced this week that the aircraft will maneuver autonomously using a technology called Peregrine, according to a news release from Near Earth Autonomy, which developed the system. The onboard system uses lidar, inertial measurement and GPS sensors. When the aircraft is maneuvering close to the ground — lower than 65 feet — the system scans the ground in three dimensions, using lasers, to determine whether the site is safe for landing.
The sensor package creates a 3-D representation of the landing environment using laser scanning and inertial measurement. During descent, this representation is used to assess the landing site by an onboard computer. The assessment verifies that the designated landing site is safe, and away from obstructions or hazardous terrain. If necessary, it provides alternate locations to ensure safe touchdown. Vahana and Near Earth Autonomy completed a series of acceptance flights testing the technology in June.