The idea of the flying car has been thrown around for as long as cars have been around, but no one's been able to make it work. Recently attempts have shifted towards using giant autonomous drones as a flying vehicle of sorts, and Airbus has just finished its first successful test.
The test itself took place at Pendleton UAS Range in Oregon on Wednesday, though success doesn't mean you should start getting excited. Successful basically means that the Vahana autonomous flying taxi managed to take off to a height of 16 feet, fly around a bit, and land without crashing. All without the need for a human controller. But because the flight itself was only 53 seconds long, you shouldn't expect to be hitching a ride in one of these anytime soon.
A second test flight took place yesterday, and from the sounds of tings that was also a success. No details on how long it was or how high the vehicle flew are available, however.
The flight is the culmination of two years of planning, with the eventual goal being to create an autonomous network of flying vehicles people can hail as they would a driver with a regular ride-hailing service. A lot is going to need to happen to make that a reality though, particularly where flight times are concerned. You need big batteries to something like that in the air, but batteries are heavy so the bigger the battery the more power you need. And the only way to get more power is a bigger battery.
So even before you factor in the issue of passenger weight there's a big problem that needs a clever solution. But if an electric plane can fly around the world there's no reason a giant drone can't fly someone to Tesco or the train station.
There are bound to be a lot more tests like this as Airbus develops its tech to accommodate the many limitations involved, so expect to hear more of this sort of thing at some point in the future - both from Airbus and competing companies like Uber. [Vahana via Venture Beat]