Two separate Airbus group entities—the Silicon Valley-based A3 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 a more fully defined eVTOL prototype, based on information gathered from the Vahana and CityAirbus demonstrator programs.
On May 3, 2019, Airbus Helicopters confirmed that the CityAirbus model had flown for the first time that day. On Dec. 21, 2019, the aircraft made its first untethered and remotely piloted flight.
Flight testing of the Vahana concluded after a flight test campaign of 13.41 hours and 138 flights since the start of the program in Pendleton, Oregon, on Jan. 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 v-p of urban air mobility systems Zach Lovering reported in a November 27 blog post that the Vahana program performed its last test flight on Nov. 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 Oct. 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 covers 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.
In September 2021, during a sustainability summit conference at its headquarters in Toulouse, Airbus broke a long silence over its plans for the advanced air mobility sector, announcing the CityAirbus NextGen aircraft. It unveiled a design for a fixed-wing aircraft, with a V-shaped tail and eight sets of electric motors and propellers. An engineering team led by Airbus Helicopters is working on the detailed design for the CityAirbus NextGen model, with the aim of achieving a first flight with a prototype in 2023, en route to type certification in 2025. It will carry up to four passengers on flights of up to 80 km (50 miles) and at speeds of 120 km/h (75 mph).
From November 2021 through May 2022, Airbus partnered with various companies to assist them in producing the CityAirbus NextGen. In November 2021, Thales and Diehl Aerospace signed on to jointly develop flight control computers for the CityAirbus NextGen. In March 2022, Spirit AeroSystems agreed to manufacture and develop lighter and more aerodynamic wings for the CityAirbus NextGen in a partnership with the design team of Airbus Helicopters. In May 2022, Magicall was selected by Airbus to supply electric motors for the CityAirbus NextGen.
In late April and early May 2022 Airbus progressed its plans to implement the CityAirbus NextGen into cities. On April 27, Airbus and ITA Airways agreed to collaborate on urban air mobility in Italy. The agreement calls for local partners of companies to participate in the launch of operations for the CityAirbus NextGen. On May 4, Airbus began an air mobility initiative in the German city Ingolstadt. With the support of local partners, the project will assess how eVTOL operations such as the CityAirbus could connect German cities.
In June 2022, Airbus selected two German companies, KLK Motorsport and Modell- und Formenbau Blasius Gerg, to produce the rear structure of the CityAirbus NextGen. Both companies have worked with Airbus in the past.
In July 2022, Airbus announced the construction of a dedicated test center for the CityAirbus NextGen. The facility is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2023 in southern Germany.