At an Eastern Oregon airfield, the possible future of taxi cabs just had its first flight.
Airbus' Vahana is a driverless, electric-engined octocopter designed to be capable of maneuvering through an urban or suburban landscape—and of soaring over traffic jams. According to Airbus, the rates will likely be comparable to taxis in traffic, about $1.50 to $2.50 a mile.
Airbus announced last August that its Vahana team would come to Oregon for its test flights—and on January 31, that future of robotic air-cabs just got a lot closer.
The successful maiden voyage of the Vahana was at 8:31 am at the Pendleton UAS Range. The flight wasn't long, nor was it very high—the copter flew for only 53 seconds, rising to a height of about 15 feet and then landing successfully.
While it may look tiny in the picture taken during the flight test, the aircraft is a 1,600-pound machine with a 20-foot wingspan.
Vahana uses cameras and lidar—basically the laser equivalent of radar—to navigate, and even a short flight like this is a proof of concept.
So maybe sometime soon we'll see cool aerial slalom videos, and videos of VTOL aircraft dodging birds. We can only hope.
Here's a concept video showing cartoon people flying to work.