Airbus Vahana pilotless air taxi prototype completes its first test flight

The race is on for the “Uber of the skies,” self-piloting air taxis that will quickly transport you from one spot to another with a simple app on your phone. A startup founded by aerospace giant Airbus has a project in development named Vahana, and it recently completed a test flight of its prototype flying car at an airport in Oregon.

Vahana is a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) single-passenger design with wings and tail sections that rotate from vertical to horizontal as the aircraft lands and takes off. In a statement, the company announced that the electric plane had completed two successful test flights, rising to a height of 16 feet for a duration of 53 seconds.

The aircraft is 20 feet long and almost 19 feet wide, with a projected battery range of 62 miles. The VTOL design will allow is to take off and land in small areas like a parking lot or skyscraper roof. “In just under two years, Vahana took a concept sketch on a napkin and built a full-scale, self-piloted aircraft that has successfully completed its first flight,” said Zach Lovering of Vahana.

Although the prototype only hovered for about a minute, Vahana’s ambitious goal is to bring its autonomous flying car to market by 2020. Further tests will involve transitioning from vertical to forward flight. Officials from the FAA were also on hand to witness the test flights at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range.

Boeing, Airbus’ biggest rivals, recently acquired Aurora Flight Science, which has worked with Uber on the Elevate project. Uber is planning a flying taxi service in Dubai, Dallas, and even Los Angeles as soon as 2020.

California-based Joby Aviation, which just got a $100 million boost from Toyota, has its own electric flying taxi program in development as well. Surefly is a hybrid gas/electric prototype personal drone with a built-in ejector seat in case things go wrong. The Volocopter “super drone” has 18 rotors, but can only travel 17 miles.

Everyone wants to take to the skies, but with so many companies eyeing the potential for personal air travel, the friendly skies could get awful crowded very quickly.

Cars

Has Apple rebooted its self-driving car program to develop autonomous vans?

The on-again, off-again Apple car is back on track, but it's not a sedan or a hatchback. It will arrive as an electric, autonomous passenger-carrying van, according to a recent report.
Emerging Tech

Delivery drones: NASA to test advanced traffic control system for cities

Delivery drone services are edging closer as NASA prepares to demonstrate its advanced drone traffic management system, which it claims offers safe and effective control of autonomous aircraft in urban areas.
Business

Singapore Airlines passengers unsettled by cameras in seat-back displays

A number of passengers flying with Singapore Airlines recently expressed concern over cameras embedded in seat-back displays on some of its aircraft, though the carrier insists the devices have been disabled.
Home Theater

They were robbed! From Crowe to Pacino, 10 times Oscar voters got it wrong

With the 91st Oscars rapidly approaching, now is a fine time to look back at several Oscar-worthy performances that were completely ignored by the Academy, as well as others that were nominated and astoundingly denied the little naked…
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.