The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Two separate Airbus group entities—the Silicon Valley-based A3 by Airbus advanced technology subsidiary and Airbus Helicopters—are leading efforts to launch Airbus's entry to the eVTOL market with a pair of technology demonstrators being used to define the planned design.

A3 was responsible for flight testing the single-seat Vahana model and Airbus Helicopters is working on the four-seat CityAirbus aircraft. In June 2019, Airbus confirmed that neither of these models will be type certified for service entry. In April 2019, the company began design work on what is expected to be a more fully defined eVTOL prototype, based on information gathered from the Vahana and CityAirbus demonstrator programs.

Flight testing of the Vahana was concluded on November 14 after a flight test campaign of 13.41 hours and 138 flights since the start of the program in Pendleton, Oregon, on January 31, 2018. The demonstrator aircraft flew a total of 560 miles (903 km) during the test campaign, with the longest flight being just over 31 miles and the longest duration being 19 minutes 56 seconds.

Airbus vice president of urban air mobility systems Zach Lovering reported in a November 27 blog post that the Vahana program performed its last test flight on November 14, 2019. Lovering promised to share more details in a future post, meanwhile noting that the fully electric, autonomous eVTOL aircraft flew a total of 487 nm (903 km) over the course of the flight test campaign. In May 2019, Airbus reported that the aircraft had achieved full transition from vertical to horizontal flight. During testing, the aircraft flew at 12 different intermediate speeds up to its projected top speed of 115 mph.

On May 3, 2019, Airbus Helicopters confirmed that the CityAirbus model had flown for the first time that day. On December 21, 2019, the aircraft made its first untethered and remotely piloted flight. 

On October 2, 2019, Airbus Helicopters signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to cooperate in the field of VTOL aircraft. The agreement will cover work such as the European manufacturer's Racer demonstrator, the certification of new piloting assistance systems such as Airbus's EAGLE technology, and thermal/electrical hybridization of rotorcraft (including new eVTOL designs).

On July 31, 2020, Airbus achieved a first automatic takeoff, flight stabilization and landing with CityAirbus at its Donauworth facility in Germany. It also announced plans to move the aircraft to its Manching site, near Munich, in order to expand the flight envelope to include forward movement from around the end of August.

Timeline

partnership

On October 2, 2019, Airbus Helicopters signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to cooperate in the field of VTOL aircraft. The agreement will cover work such as the European manufacturer's Racer demonstrator, the certification of new piloting assistance systems such as Airbus's EAGLE technology, and thermal/electrical hybridization of rotorcraft (including new eVTOL designs).

During the 2019 Paris Air Show, Airbus confirmed that in April 2019 it had begun design work on a new eVTOL aircraft prototype based on learnings from development work with the Vahana and CityAirbus demonstrators.

test flight

On May 3, 2019, the CityAirbus technology demonstrator made its first flight at the Airbus Helicopters facility in Donauwörth, Germany.

test flight

Airbus achieved a short first flight with its Vahana technology demonstrator, lasting just 53 seconds and reaching an altitude of 16 feet. Flight testing is due to be complete by the end of 2019. As of June 2019, more than 100 flights had been made at the Pendleton test site in Oregon.

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Airbus has a very strong and long track record of bringing new aircraft to market. Its Airbus Helicopters division is well placed to advance its ambitions in the eVTOL sector, and this asset is complimented by the wider expertise being cultivated in the A3 by Airbus business unit. Unlike some bullish start-up ventures, Airbus's Urban Air Mobility division is wisely advocating a more cautious approach to making the eVTOL dream a reality, citing the need to ensure a solid safety case for the new-generation aircraft. It envisages initial service entry in the late 2020s. It has significant expertise in technologies such as autonomous systems (through its Wayfinder program) and also in air traffic management. Looking ahead to potential service entry for new eVTOL aircraft, Airbus also benefits from having an established customer and product support network around the world.

Airbus eVTOL Models

Vahana Specifications

autonomous vtol Tiltwing

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    1
  • Range
    31 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    118 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    propeller
  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    1,600 lb
  • MGTOW
    n/a
  • Payload Weight
    n/a

Dimensions

  • Length
    n/a
  • Width
    n/a
  • Height
    9 ft
  • Wingspan
    21 ft

The Vahana is a single-seat technology demonstrator that Airbus's A3 subsidiary is working on to define the design of an eVTOL prototype that Airbus began work on in early 2019. Flight testing of the Vahana was concluded on November 14 after a flight test campaign of 13.41 hours and 138 flights since the start of the program in Pendleton, Oregon, on January 31, 2018. The demonstrator aircraft flew a total of 560 miles (903 km) during the test campaign, with the longest flight being just over 31 miles (50 km) and the longest duration being 19 minutes 56 seconds.

Airbus will not be certifying the Vahana for entry into service. The same approach is being taken with the four-seat CityAirbus technology demonstrator produced by Airbus Helicopters.

The Vahana has two tiltwings, each with four propellers powered by eight 45 kW electric motors.

Key Personnel

Eduardo Dominguez-Puerta
Eduardo Dominguez-Puerta

Vice President (VP)