The Airbus A3 Vahana project started in 2015 in a Silicon Valley (Northern California, USA) in a innovation center of Airbus to develop an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for people to replace cars and train travel for short-range advanced air mobility (AAM), formerly called urban air mobility (UAM). The team consisted of 100 personnel, over 130 test flights A3 is pronounced A-cubed and Vahana means vehicle in Sanskrit. The A3 project ended in December 2019.
Airbus SE was founded on December 18, 1970 as is headquartered in Leiden, Netherlands, with offices and manufacturing facilities throughout Europe. Airbus SE is Europe's largest aerospace company and a 2019 article shows that Airbus is the largest aerospace company, in terms of revenue, in the world. Annual revenue for 2021 for the company was €52.15 billion and the company employs over 126,000 people. The business units for the company are in commercial aircraft, helicopters, defense and space. Airbus is a largest airliner manufacturer in the world and has has the highest sales in revenue for helicopters and turbine deliveries in the world.
The Airbus A³ Vahana (pronounced “Acubed”) Alpha Two is a full-scale self-piloting eVTOL canard tilt-wing demonstrator which has eight propellers and eight electric motors for propulsion in all directions. Alpha Two has a mock-up interior with seating for one person but hypothetically could carry two passengers, the instrument panel with one small screen is a mock-up as well.
The aircraft has a cruise speed of 143 mph (230 km/h), a range of 60 miles (100 km) and has a cruise altitude of 10,000 ft (3,048 m). The empty weight of the aircraft is 1,050 lb (475 kg), has a maximum payload weight of 450 lb (200 kg) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,800 lb (815 kg). The aircraft has a working canopy over the cockpit, has a finished mock-up interior and uses fixed skid landing gear. The aircraft also has an emergency ballistic parachute which can safely be deployed at low altitudes.
The vehicle uses eight 60 hp (45 kw) motors situated on one forward and one rear tilt-wings. Its sensor suite employs cameras as well as active Lidar and radar. It has a crash rated seat and an emergency ballistic parachute that works effectively even at a low altitude. The aircraft has fixed-skid type landing gear which keeps complexity and weight down to to a minimum.
On May 20, 2019, a new Vahana article reveals that Alpha Two is a full-scale demonstrator, has a finished interior and is located in Pendleton, Oregon, USA. The article has multiple pictures of the aircraft . By having a second complete full-scale vehicle, Vahana states they achieved two primary objectives: 1) They have a complete set of spares if needed and 2) They can now experiment with the passenger experience.
One of the pictures of the Alpha Two aircraft, below, you'll see a close-up view of the front of the aircraft. That equipment is part of the system that Vahana uses to sense and avoid obstacles in the air. This aircraft will be completely autonomous and in addition, the aircraft will have to be able to sense ground infrastructure, other eVTOL aircraft, drones, airplanes, helicopters, birds, wires, trees, weather conditions and more. In addition, the aircraft has to autonomously avoid all obstacles during take-off, forward flight and when landing and be extremely fast in all the phases of flight. A complete article on Airbus' technology to handle these enormous tasks is here online.
To stay current with the latest in eVTOL technology with Airbus, please see the Acubed Vahana website.
Aircraft type: eVTOL uncrewed demonstrator
Piloting: Remote controlled
Capacity: 2 passengers
Cruise speed: 143 mph (230 km/h, 125 kt)
Range with reserves: 60 miles (100 km)
Flight Time: Unknown
Cruise altitude: 10,000 ft at 95°F (3,048 m at 35°C)
Empty weight: 1,050 lb (475 kg)
Maximum payload: 450 lb (200 kg)
Maximum takeoff weight: 1,800 lb (815 kg)
Propellers: 8 propellers
Electric Motors: 8 electric motors
Motor output: 8 x 60 hp (8 x 45 kw)
Power source: Battery packs
Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
Fuselage length: 19.5 ft (5.86 m)
Overall height: 9.275 ft (2.81 m)
Wingspan: 20.6 ft (6.25 m)
Tip-to-tip distance: 18.75 ft (5.7 m )
Windows: Canopy over cockpit
Wings: Canard tilt-wing, each wing can tilt independently
Landing gear: Fixed skid-type landing gear
Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft.
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