The name Airbus is associated with large flying machines but the company has never shied away from its ambitions to make a small 'flying taxi' as well. The dream now moves a step closer to reality with the unveiling of the "Next Generation" of its City Airbus, an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) solution.
The CityAirbus, an all-electric flying aircraft with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities has been in the works since 2015. Aimed primarily at evading ground traffic, this personal aircraft is being developed by the Helicopter division of Airbus, and its previous iteration looked much like a futuristic helicopter. The version also went well beyond artistic rendering, with the company even publicizing its flight trials.
Incorporating its learnings from over 600 miles (1000 km) of flight and 242 ground and flight tests, the company has now unveiled the Next Generation of the CityAirbus, which also looks quite different from its predecessors.
Sporting fixed wings and a V-shaped tail, the new CityAirbus is powered by eight propellers. Although the specifications haven't been revealed, it is big enough to carry four people with a range of about 50 miles (80 km) covered at a top speed of ~75 mph (120 km/h), with zero emissions, the company said in its press release.
Conventionally, such short distances are handled by noisy helicopters but Airbus claims that its electric propeller-powered CityAirbus will ensure that noise levels stay under control. Optimized for hover and cruise efficiency, the CityAirbus is designed to keep noise levels below 65 decibels (dB) during flight, and under 70 dB while landing, the company said. This is about the noise a regular vacuum cleaner makes during operation.
Currently, in a detailed design phase, the CityAirbus is scheduled for its first flight in 2023 with certification expected by 2025. “We are on a quest to co-create an entirely new market that sustainably integrates urban air mobility into the cities while addressing environmental and social concerns," said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters."We build on all of the capabilities to deliver a safe, sustainable, and fully integrated service to society."
Apart from delivering a world-class eVTOL, the company also needs to work on developing an ecosystem that includes automated flight management and integration of the aircraft into urban infrastructure. The company has identified partners to enable this new operating environment, the company said.