Airbus has said its flying taxi project is on track and the vehicle will take to the skies for the first time – in flight tests – by the end of 2018.
The update on the futuristic project, which was first announced in August 2016, comes as the European aviation giant successfully tested the propulsion system of CityAirbus – the self-piloted, electric vehicle that looks to cruise over dense urban areas at speeds up to 120kmph.
As described by the company, CityAirbus is a battery-powered four-rotor electric vehicle, which would follow a drone-like vertical take-off and landing mechanism and fly up to four people over congested megacities to help them reach airports or train stations safely and quickly.
The idea of carrying up to four passengers at a time would also add benefits of cost-efficiency just like a regular shared cab.
In the recently completed test, the team working on Airbus' flying taxi inspected the performance of each ducted propeller as well as the integration of its full-scale propulsion unit with two propellers, electric 100KW Seimens motors, and all other avionics. The vehicle will use eight such motors in total.
"We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus' innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator," said Marius Bebesel, the chief engineer for CityAirbus, according to a statement.
The company will conduct a series of ground tests before moving on to the "power on" phase – in which all motors and electric systems will be turned on for the first time – in the first half of 2018. By the end of 2018, Airbus hopes to conduct the maiden test flight, with as well as without a pilot.
The ultimate goal, however, is to bring CityAirbus into operation sometime around 2023. Initially, the vehicle will have a pilot in the loop, but the company eventually plans to ditch human control for fully-autonomous aerial trips.