Airbus is looking to put its flying taxi in the air next year, confirmed CityAirbus chief engineer Marius Bebesel this week. The schedule is on track after CityAirbus conducted successful ground tests of the electric power system it's using to propel the vehicle through the air.
The CityAirbus craft is a vertical take-off and landing craft that uses a four rotor design, and that would be able to take up to four passengers on short flights in dense urban areas, with the aim of connecting major transportation hubs including train stations and airports. It's designed to be pilot operated at launch, but to eventually transition to being a fully autonomous vehicle once the tech catches up.
CNBC reports that Airbus is aiming to operate the craft along fixed, predetermined routes, with top air speeds of around 80 mph. They'll be able to skip over the traffic that can dramatically increase travel times entering and exiting busy city transit points, which would theoretically also help alleviate ground congestion.
Short hop flights are also an ideal application of battery electric tech, since that's all that vehicles will be able to manage using fully electric power sources in the near-term. Plus, battery unit swapping or autonomous dock charging could help make it easier to make these vehicles fully self-flying in the future.