A³ by Airbus
San Jose, California, USA
The Airbus A³ Vahana (pronounced “A-cubed”) is a full-scale prototype self-piloting electric 8-prop tilt wing vehicle. It is intended to fly a single passenger or cargo along a predetermined flight path. As of Feb. 2019, the program had flown more than 50 hours with the first unmanned demonstrator, Alpha One, and rolled out the second, dubbed Alpha Two.
The vehicle uses eight 60 hp (45 kW) motors situated on forward and rear tilt-wings. Approximately one-third of its mass is its batteries (600 lb / 272 kg). Its sensor suite employs cameras as well as active Lidar and Radar. It has a crash rated seat and a ballistic parachute intended to work even at a low altitude.
The A³ Vahana’s goal is to be utilized specifically as a single (eventually double) seated air taxi for urban mobility. Flying autonomously, it will follow only predetermined flight paths making minor deviations should obstacle avoidance be necessary.
A³ Vahana’s first test flight occurred Jan. 31, 2018, at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport. The full sized “Alpha One” prototype flew autonomously to a height of 5 m (16 ft) for 53 seconds. On Feb. 22, 2019, Airbus announced, “To date we’ve flown 50 full-scale test flights totaling over 5 flight hours (our subscale model has flown 1,277 test flights and over 51 flight hours!). More flights are planned through at least the first half of this year as the team studies and checks flight controls, navigation, failure detection and mitigation as well as noise during flight.” The post also noted that the Alpha One could conduct “flight times in excess of seven minutes and speeds in excess of 50 kts” (92.6 km/h).
Project Vahana began as one of the first projects of the Advanced Projects and Partnerships Outpost of the Airbus Group in California’s Silicon Valley. The group is intended to operate with strong innovative concepts and more aggressive timescales than traditional industry. When the program was unveiled, Airbus said it planned to have a demonstrator by 2020 that can be put into production and capable of delivering more than 1 billion flight hours every year.
|Passenger capacity||1 (unmanned)||2|
|Fuselage length||18.75 ft||5.7 m||19.5 ft||5.86 m|
|Overall height||9.275 ft||2.81 m||9.275 ft||2.81 m|
|Wingspan||20.6 ft||6.25 m||20.6 ft||6.25 m|
|Tip-to-tip distance||18.75 ft||5.7 m||18.75 ft||5.7 m|
|Empty weight||1,050 lb||475 kg||1,050 lb||475 kg|
|Max gross takeoff wt||1,800 lb||815 kg||1,800 lb||815 kg|
|Useful load||200 lb||90 kg||450 lb||200 kg|
|Range, with reserves||30 mi||60 km||60 mi||100 km|
|Altitude||5,000 ft (at 95 °F)||1,524 m (at 35 °C)||10,000 ft (at 95 °F)||3,048 m (at 35 °C)|
|Cruise speed||110 kt||200 km/h||125 kt||230 km/h|
|Propulsors||8 propellers||8 propellers|
|Motor output||8 x 60 hp||8 x 45 kW||8 x 60 hp||8 x 45 kW|
- Search eVTOL news posts
- Airbus website: Rethinking Urban Air Mobility, June 2017
- Vahana post: Flight Test Update: 50 Flights, Medium.com, Feb. 22, 2019
- Article: Before They Take Off Flying Cars Must Defeat Bureaucracy, Wired, February 15, 2018
- Article: Airbus Vahana eVTOL Aircraft Completes First Full-Scale Test Flight, DefPost, February 3, 2018
- Article: First flight of the A³ Vahana eVTOL tiltwing, Vertipedia, January 2018
- Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March/April 2017
- Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, January/February 2017
- Video: Vahana – Passenger Experience, Vahana, June 16, 2017