WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Traffic jams are synonymous with cars, and both are global issues, so companies are looking to the future and trying to reinvent travel and mobility.
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Flying cars, flying taxis, flying drones and autonomous aircraft that shuttle people and goods backwards and forwards, call them what you will but they’re literally starting to take off. Over the past couple of years, as interest in the space has gathered speed, there have been a number of first flights, for example, in Dubai and Germany, and companies like Aston Martin, Porsche, and Rolls Royce have even joined the party, showing off their own fantastic concepts. And then of course there’s the Audi-Airbus alliance, and now, about a year after first showing off their PopUp concept the first Airbus all-electric, four-seat multicopter demonstrator, CityAirbus, has made its first untethered flight in Donauwörth, Germany, at the company’s competence center for military air systems, according to Airbus.
Housed under Airbus Helicopters, the CityAirbus project – as well as the Vahana unmanned demonstrator, which completed flight testing last year – is part of Airbus’ efforts to explore and understand the fundamental technologies behind electric aircraft and the urban air mobility market, including distributed electric propulsion and autonomous flight.
Driven by eight propellers contained in four ducted propulsion units, CityAirbus is targeting a cruise speed of approximately 75 mph with capacity for four passengers, which Airbus calls “ideal for urban ridesharing.”
The CityAirbus demonstrator is intended to be remotely piloted, according to Airbus’ website, or flown autonomously for up to 15 minutes, though that capability hasn’t been added to the aircraft yet, according to the company.
As a multicopter concept somewhat similar to Volocopter’s VoloCity, CityAirbus likely will not be as efficient in forward flight as many other electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concepts, such as two unveiled at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show: Bell’s Nexus 4EX and Hyundai’s S-A1, both of which are part of Uber’s Elevate ecosystem, and unfortunately as a demonstrator program the CityAirbus project isn’t likely to enter production, but it’s a start and a sign of things to come and that’s what makes the project, and the demonstration so exciting.