WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- With more people moving into the cities gridlock is becoming the bane of most people’s lives, Airbus and others, including Uber propose taking to the skies but people with vertigo should watch out
Airbus has been eyeing the increasingly interesting, and viable, flying taxi space for some time now – ever since it ran an experimental air taxi business with Uber for the Sundance Festival in 2016. Then, when Uber announced last October that they wanted to begin operating their own commercial sky taxi business in 2021 Airbus were there again as a potential partner. Now, according to the company’s CEO, it looks like the company’s ready to push the envelope and start testing it’s latest flying taxi concept dubbed “Vahana” later this year.
Vahana, which Airbus call a “Personal Flight Vehicle,” is basically Airbus’ answers to roads and traffic jams and the company argues that rather than spending billions of dollars on pouring new concrete for roads and motorways, then watching traffic sit idle on them is a waste of both time and money. And to give their argument credence they offer up Sao Paulo in Brazil as a case in point where in 2014 the traffic jams were so bad they stretched 344 km. So they have a point – and why sit in a traffic jam when you can zoom around the skies instead?
“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” said Airbus’s CEO Tom Enders at a tech conference in Munich yesterday, adding that while this was an experiment, the company is taking it “very seriously.”
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Airlines are apparently losing their appetite for expensive aircraft so instead Airbus appears to be branching out and turning its attention – and its vast R&D skills – to smaller scale urban transport instead where it will inevitably have to compete with other new market entrants including EHang, a Chinese competitor who recently successfully tested their own sky taxi – and who are also partnering with Uber.
Vahana, which Enders proposes will be hailed using an Uber style app, will have multiple propellers, take off vertically and seat a single passenger, although the final models will accommodate more people more, and while the space is still emerging regulators such as the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are slowly warming to the idea, so watch this airspace – er, I mean space.