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Autonomous, electric eVTOL aircraft from A³ by Airbus successfully completes first full-scale test flight: Vahana

Vahana, the all-electric, self-piloted, VTOL aircraft from A³ by Airbus, successfully completed its first full-scale flight test, reaching a height of 5 meters (16 feet) before descending safely. The test was completed on 31 January 2018 at the Pendleton UAS Range in Pendleton, Oregon. Its first flight, with a duration of 53 seconds, was fully self-piloted and the vehicle completed a second flight the following day.

Vahana is a project developed at A³, the Silicon Valley outpost of Airbus. 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.

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The Alpha One in flight. Click to enlarge.

Today we are celebrating a great accomplishment in aerospace innovation. In just under two years, Vahana took a concept sketch on a napkin and built a full-scale, self-piloted aircraft that has successfully completed its first flight. Our team is grateful for the support we’ve received from A³ and the extended Airbus family, as well as our partners including MTSI and the Pendleton UAS Range.

—Zach Lovering, Project Executive of Vahana

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.

The team envisions that the electric VTOL will be used by everyday commuters as a cost-comparable replacement for short-range urban transportation such as cars or trains. The team anticipates speeds will be 2-4x faster than cars or traffic, and have a flight range of about 50 miles (80 km).

The team has also identified a new partner for its motors: MAGicALL. The California-based company designs and manufactures custom, cutting-edge components (motors, generators, inductors, transformers, etc.). The Vahana team will begin using the MAGicALL motors soon, and will provide additional technical details and insight.

MAGicALL designs and manufactures custom brushless motors ranging in power up to 1 MW and speeds from very slow to those in excess of 100,000 rpm. MAGicALL designs both permanent magnet and induction machines; motors may be supplied with gear sets, as complete motors or in open frame configurations.

MAGicALL has developed a proprietary brazing process for manufacturing copper rotor induction motors. These motors are extremely rugged, fault tolerant, and well suited for demanding aerospace and downhole applications.

In April 2017, A³ by Airbus, in cooperation with AUVSI, the world’s largest nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community, called on aviation and aerospace industry leaders, regulators, as well as technologists to cooperate in developing standards for self-piloted passenger aircraft and the regulatory pathways required to make large-scale automated passenger flight possible in urban areas.

Comments

HarveyD

The arrival of autonomous eVTOL, to safely transport passengers faster than cars in crowded city streets, may be around sooner than expected.

The arrival of improved SS batteries and improved sensors and processors will make those autonomous e-VTOLs a strong possibility.

The same technologies will help to improve ground level ADVs.

SJC

They should find out if the FAA will approve first.

Paroway

Airbus is European. They don't need FAA's approval.

SJC

To fly in the U.S. you do.

HarveyD

FAA & USA rules and regulations barely compose more than 4.5% of the world. The other 95.5% could approve and use eVTOL and FCVTOL units.

The days when USA controlled the world commerce are over?
It is Asia/China's turn?

FCA & USA would quickly adapt their rules and regulation and try to catch up.

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