Call it a flying car, or an air taxi, or a pilotless passenger aircraft: Whatever it is, Airbus’ Vahana aircraft is ready for flight tests in eastern Oregon after making the trek from the California shop where it was created.
We reported that Vahana was in the Pacific Northwest last week, but in today’s Medium posting, project leader Zach Lovering shares a travelogue as well as pictures showing the journey from the Airbus-backed venture’s headquarters in Santa Clara, known as “The Nest,” to the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range Mission Control and Innovation Center.
Flight tests are expected to begin within the next few weeks at Pendleton’s aerial test range, with the blessing of the Federal Aviation Administration. Vahana is designed to be an all-electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing, autonomously controlled air vehicle with a battery range of 100 kilometers (62 miles). Once it enters service, passengers would use smartphone apps to book rides.
It’s one of many concepts for a new breed of aerial vehicle that are generically called “flying cars” or “air taxis,” even though most of them are nothing like the roadable, flyable vehicles that were dreamt of going back to the 1950s.
In his posting, Lovering says “it was no easy feat for our bird to leave The Nest, but many hands make light work.” He traced how Vahana’s 10-person team partially disassembled the test vehicle, then wrapped up the fuselage in plastic and put it on a trailer for transport.
Once the caravan arrived in Pendleton, it took less than a day to reassemble the craft. The flight team has already gone through an end-to-end flight test simulation, using real as well as computer-generated data.
“Completing the move to Pendleton was an extensive process, but was yet another monumental step in our journey toward first flight,” Lovering says. “Vahana is happily settled in its new home and receives careful attention from the Vahana team as we set our eyes on the Oregon skies for our first flight.”