Welcome to Vahana
Project Vahana started in early 2016 as one of the first projects at A³ (pronounced “A-cubed”), the advanced projects and partnerships outpost of Airbus Group in Silicon Valley. At Vahana, we are passionate about personal flight. The aircraft we’re building doesn’t need a runway, is self-piloted, and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft. Designed to carry a single passenger or cargo, we’re aiming to make it the first certified passenger aircraft without a pilot. We aim to fly a full-size prototype before the end of 2017, and to have a productizable demonstrator by 2020.
Vahana sits at the convergence of trends in urban demographics and rapid improvements in batteries, advanced sensors, mass-produced lightweight composite structures, and more.
Today, many of the technical and regulatory challenges to scalable, affordable flight are trending favorably:
- Battery safety and energy density are now adequate for airborne applications.
- Low-cost, reliable avionics are becoming broadly available, leveraging decades of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development.
- Mature obstacle detection and avoidance technology can enable safe aircraft takeoff and landing, and provides reliable collision avoidance in flight.
- Recent advances in automated composite manufacturing and assembly show that small, lightweight vehicles can be produced at high volumes and significantly lower costs than traditional aerospace methods have previously allowed.
These trends, along with the rising transportation challenges in metropolitan areas, make the case for a new generation of personal aerial vehicles.
Where We Stand
We have been busy assembling a team of passionate and restless experts in aircraft design and manufacturing, electric propulsion, vehicle autonomy, and aircraft certification.
Our team has made significant progress:
- Completed vehicle design.
- Developed or procured many critical subsystems.
- Engaged with a number of external partners who will help us build the first airframe.
The Case for Safe Automated Flight
We seek to help enable truly vertical cities by opening up urban airways in a predictable and controlled manner. We believe that full automation will allow us to achieve higher safety by minimizing human error. Our aircraft will follow predetermined flight paths, with only minor deviations if obstacle avoidance is needed. We believe this mode of operation will be compatible with future airspace management systems and will allow more aircraft to share the sky. Full automation also enables us to make our aircraft as small and light as possible, and will significantly reduce manufacturing costs.
We’ve made a number of decisions to simplify vehicle aerodynamics — and, subsequently, flight software — while providing a degree of redundancy that enables our aircraft to operate safely even after losing a motor. In the unlikely event of a severe malfunction, the vehicle will deploy a ballistic parachute that works even at low altitudes.
Building an Automated Flight Ecosystem
Beyond developing the vehicle itself, we’re seeking to move key technology categories forward, foster development of the regulatory regime for the certification and operation of automated aircraft, and to otherwise nurture an ecosystem that will help enable the vertical cities of the future.
To that end, we’re not building Vahana alone. We’ve engaged with technologists from all fields: aerospace, software, operations research, and more. And we’ll collaborate with additional partners. The majority of our development effort will be open. In forthcoming posts we’ll share a deep dive on our system design and analysis. We will also release many of our internal tools and flight code under an open source license. We believe that this degree of openness will push the industry as a whole forward, and we hope that others will follow our example.
We’re always looking for talent and for development partners. If you’d like to be part of the Vahana team, we want to hear from you. Please look at our current openings and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you feel you can contribute!
Stay tuned for updates.
Rodin, CEO, A³ by Airbus Group