Just when you thought that there were limits to human vision and determination, Airbus comes out and proves you wrong. The aviation company announced in 2016 its plans to develop an autonomous flying taxi drone. Two years later, those plans have become reality. The unmanned aircraft, called Vahana, recently completed its first test flight, and it was a rip-roaring success. We may still be years away from seeing passenger drones take to the skies, but now we know that it’s possible. What a time to be alive, right?
As unbelievable as some of this is, the world we live in now has progressed (technologically) to the point that the dreams we had when we were kids aren’t dreams anymore. Did you ever think you’d see a day when an unmanned passenger drone would take to the skies? I certainly didn’t. But the motivation of competition that breeds innovation and creativity is so juiced now that we’re seeing the fruits of that competition come to life before our eyes.
Vahana, which measures 20.3 feet wide by 18.7 feet long by 9.2 feet high and weighs 1,642 pounds, is a perfect example. Two years ago, Airbus announced the project without giving any assurances that it was possible. The company’s CEO, Tom Enders, even admitted that the project was in the “experimental phase,” which meant that they were no assurances that it would be successful. Two years of research and development later, Vahana took to the skies for its first test flight. Sure, the flight only took 53 seconds, and at a height of 16 feet, but that’s not the point. The point is that it happened. Heck, representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were even in attendance for Vahana’s inaugural test flight. They must’ve been impressed.
The drone’s successful inaugural test flight is the first step in establishing a road that leads to a future where these vehicles could dominate our skies. It’s still not certain that we’ll get to see that future, but it is gratifying and emboldening to know that the future we’re looking forward to is not impossible anymore. Project executive of the Vahana drone, Zach Lovering, even wrote in a Medium post that Airbus’ goal is to “democratize personal flight by leveraging the latest technologies such as electric propulsion, energy storage, and machine vision.”
Vahana’s successful test flight showed that these goals can be achieved. Now, we wait for what comes next from Airbus.
“Tomorrow we’ll start on the next steps of our journey,” Lovering said.
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