All-electric autonomous passenger drone completes full-scale flight test

An all-electric, autonomous passenger drone has completed its first full-scale flight test, reaching a height of 5m before safely descending.

flight test

Vahana, the vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) built by A³, Airbus' innovation outpost in Silicon Valley, successfully completed its first full-scale flight test on January 31, 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.

"Today we are celebrating a great accomplishment in aerospace innovation," said Zach Lovering, project executive of Vahana. "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.”

According to A³, project Vahana’s initial goal is to develop the first certified electric and autonomous VTOL aircraft for use by commuters at costs comparable to land-based methods of short-range transport.

The aircraft is being designed to travel at 2-to-4 times quicker than cars or traffic and have a flight range of approximately 50 miles. Future iterations could see the aircraft being adopted for a number of roles, including cargo delivery and air ambulance.

"Vahana's first flight demonstrates Airbus' unique ability to pursue ambitious ideas quickly, without compromising the quality and safety for which the company is well-known. For A³, it proves that we can deliver meaningful innovation with aggressive project timetables, to provide a real competitive advantage for Airbus," said Rodin Lyasoff, A³ CEO and former project executive of Vahana.

Following these hover flights, the team will turn to additional testing, including transitions and forward flight.

Specifications for the Vahana test aircraft flown on January 31, 2018:

  • Width: 6.2 m/20.3ft
  • Length: 5.7 m/18.7ft
  • Height: 2.8 m/9.2ft
  • Take-off Weight: 745kg/1642 lb

In a separate develop, China’s Ehang announced on February 6, 2018 that its EHANG 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle has achieved a series of manned flight tests carrying one and two passengers.