European major Airbus has chosen Sanskrit word 'Vahana' (meaning vehicle) for what might be the future of urban mobility — a self-piloted, vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The aircraft manufacturer completed the first full-scale test flight of Vahana in Oregon, US, on January 31, describing it a "milestone in advancing urban air mobility".
Airbus started the project in 2016 with an aim to provide "personal flight". "The aircraft we're building doesn't need a runway, is self-piloted, and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft.
Designed to carry a single passenger or cargo, we're aiming to make it the first certified passenger aircraft without a pilot. We aim to fly a full-size prototype before the end of 2017, and to have a productizable demonstrator by 2020," a write-up on the Vahana website says.
"Vahana, the all electric, self-piloted, VTOL aircraft from A³ by Airbus... successful completion of its first full-scale flight test, reaching a height of 5 meters before descending safely. Its first flight, with a duration of 53 seconds, was fully self-piloted and the vehicle completed a second flight the following day," Airbus said.
Asked if there was an India link to the project, an Airbus spokesman said the manufacturer chose a Sanskrit name for it.
The Vahana project is developed at A³, the Silicon Valley outpost of Airbus. "A³ enables access to unique talent and ideas, new partnership opportunities, and execution at speed.
Vahana aims to democratize personal flight and answer the growing need for urban mobility by leveraging the latest technologies in electric propulsion, energy storage, and machine vision," Airbus said.
Vahana leverages its self-piloted capabilities to operate without a passenger. Following these successful hover flights, the team will turn to additional testing, including transitions and forward flight.