Dubai To Abu Dhabi In A Flying Taxi? Airbus Looks To Revolutionise The Daily Commute

Aug 18, 2016

Am artist's impression of the CityAirbus transport system. Courtesy Airbus

The daily commute is a grind for millions of people around the world, whether it is into Manhattan, Tokyo or along the E11 from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

But a radical solution of the kind you’d normally expect to see in a sci-fi movie could be on the horizon courtesy of Airbus.

It revealed in its "Future of urban mobility: My kind of flyover" report that it is trying to create an autonomous flying vehicle platform for individual passenger and cargo transport. In other words, a flying taxi.

Flight tests of the first vehicle prototype are slated for the end of 2017.

"Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there," said Rodin Lyasoff, project executive of A3 - Airbus Group’s innovation unit.

The project is known as Vahana, and will need reliable sense-and-avoid technology, which is currently being introduced in cars by tech firms such as Google.

The report said that transport service providers are one target group for such vehicles, with a system that could operate in a similar way to car-sharing applications whereby travellers book a vehicle via a smartphone app.

"We believe that global demand for this category of aircraft can support fleets of millions of vehicles worldwide," said Mr Lyasoff.

"In as little as 10 years, we could have products on the market that revolutionise urban travel for millions of people."

The project’s team has agreed on a vehicle design and is beginning to build and test vehicle subsystems.

Rather than this just being technological pie in the sky, Airbus Group chief executive Tom Enders believes it is achievable.

"I’m no big fan of Star Wars, but it’s not crazy to imagine that one day our big cities will have flying cars making their way along roads in the sky," he said.

"In a not too distant future, we’ll use our smartphones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will land outside our front door – without any pilot."

Also revealed in the report is the CityAirbus - an airborne vehicle with multiple propellers that would resemble a drone.

While initially operated by a pilot "to allow for quick entry into the market", it would switch over to full autonomous operations once regulations are in place, the report said.

Unlike the Vahana project, several passengers would share the aircraft making it more affordable.

Developers in France and Germany have been working on the concept for two years.

Airbus could face competition from the likes of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop ultra-fast transport system.

This can potentially move containers or up to 40 people in a single capsule at speeds of up to 1,100 kilometres per hour, which could cut journey times between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to 15 minutes.

Rob Lloyd, the chief executive of Hyperloop Technologies, said in March that he hopes the UAE will be one of the early adopters of the technology.


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