Airbus is getting into the flying electric taxi fray

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Source:   —  October 12, 2017, at 12:50 PM

Airbus Helicopters is one such company, and this mo it completed a full-scale test of the propulsion system for its CityAirbus concept -- a tiny eight-rotor VTOL craft designed for cities.

Airbus is getting into the flying electric taxi fray

After decades of churning out updated versions of helicopters that first rolled out in the one thousand nine hundred sixty and one thousand nine hundred seventy, aerospace manufacturers are finally starting to see at new forms of tiny vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft as several companies attempt to pair electric energy sources with new propeller layouts. Airbus Helicopters is one such company, and this mo it completed a full-scale test of the propulsion system for its CityAirbus concept -- a tiny eight-rotor VTOL craft designed for cities.

Still in engineering and prototype construct stages, the CityAirbus envisions an electrically powered four-passenger craft meant for brief flights -- from an airport on the outskirts of a major city to a city center, for instance -- powered by 100-kW Siemens electric motors for lift and for forward flight, drawing juice from a 140-kWh battery. The quad-fairing design uses a total of eight propellers and promises a much lower acoustic footprint, according to Airbus, in addition to greater safety and stability.

"We presently have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we'll continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the gathering of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator," said Marius Bebesel, CityAirbus chief engineer.

What the CityAirbus does not promise, at minimum not right away, is autonomous operation which is what some competitors are currently aiming for; the VTOL craft will first be flown by a pilot for certification purposes, even though Airbus eventually wants the craft to be capable of autonomous flight.

Speaking of flight, the CityAirbus is expected to get to the air for the first time at the finish of two thousand eighteen, with the first test expected to be piloted by remote.

Range anxiety in cars is one thing, but when it comes to helicopter-like craft it's quite another, and the same thing goes for autonomous tech. The biggest question with this electric VTOL craft and others likely won't be airworthiness, but the capacities of their batteries, as well as their recharging time; the autonomous tech will come later.

One of the questions that these craft will have to reply is whether passengers will believe autonomous piloting software in an electric craft of this type. This, more so than battery tech, will define if there's a necessity for VTOL aircraft of this type to be autonomous.

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