Less than two weeks after the CityAirbus eVTOL demonstrator performed its first public flight demonstration in Donauwörth, Germany, the aircraft has achieved its first fully automatic flight.
While the July 20 demo for Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder was a routine flight for CityAirbus, the latest, autonomous flight represents a significant milestone for the program. Airbus expects that its future urban air taxis will ultimately fly themselves, although they will initially have an operator on board, “mainly for psychological reasons,” an Airbus spokesperson said.
As seen in an Airbus video, takeoff of the aircraft into a hover was remotely commanded by a single button push, while pushing a separate button commanded it to land.
“Everything went perfect, so we are very happy, this was a great achievement for us,” Airbus’s Marius Bebesel states in the video.
CityAirbus can only perform limited hovering maneuvers at the Airbus Helicopters facilities in Donauwörth, but the company expects to relocate the aircraft to Manching, Germany, at the end of August for more extensive flight testing.
“We will extend the flight envelope of the aircraft, so we will fly forward and we will fly at medium and higher speeds than we did here in Donauwörth. There we have a secured area to do this kind of flight envelope expansion we need to do,” Bebesel says.
CityAirbus is the second full-scale eVTOL prototype that Airbus has revealed publicly. Its first, the tilt-wing Vahana, made significant progress in autonomous flight over the course of a 138-flight test campaign that wrapped up last year. The Vahana program birthed the Wayfinder autonomy program, which contributed to the success of Airbus’s Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off and Landing (ATTOL) project involving an A350 airliner.
In May, Airbus reaffirmed its commitment to the CityAirbus program, telling eVTOL.com, “Airbus considers new forms of air transport such as UAM [urban air mobility] an opportunity to develop key technologies for the future of VTOL platforms, including electric flight and autonomy.”