Airbus recently had the first ever successful flight of its Vahana autonomous air vehicle, and now it’s released video of that pivotal moment in the aircraft’s development. The flight took place at the end of January in Pendleton, Oregon, when the flying, passenger-capable drone took off and hovered off the ground about 16 feet in the air, all while piloting itself.
The next step for Vahana is moving directionally through the air from point A to point B, another task that it’ll have to be able to handle autonomously before it ever hopes to go into proper service.
Vahana is an all-electric aircraft, with a six rotor design that enables it to take off vertically, and then adjust the angle of its airfoils to move into directional flight mode. Its target use case will be short-hop flights from point to point within urban settings – which is why the “air taxi” moniker is so fitting.
Personal autonomous flight vehicles still seem pretty far out there, but company’s like Airbus are investing in its potential, and leading technologists like Sebastian Thrun think they could even leapfrog autonomous cars in terms of develop pace and practical usability, so watch this space.