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Airbus prepares pilotless aircraft for flight next year

October 10, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Airbus has completed full-scale testing of the propulsion system for the CityAirbus demonstrator – a “multi-passenger, self-piloted electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle designed for urban air mobility”.

“Self-piloted” hints at the magnitude of what’s happening. The division that carried out the test is Airbus Helicopters, but make no mistake, the craft is a breakthrough and a step in the quest by aircraft manufacturers to produce, eventually, pilotless planes.

As well as being self-piloted, the new craft is powered by batteries.

Airbus Helicopters reported that during the successful testing phase, the CityAirbus team thoroughly checked the individual performance of the ducted propellers as well as the integration of the full-scale propulsion unit with two propellers, electric 100 KW Siemens motors and all electrical systems.



CityAirbus is a battery-powered air vehicle able to vertically take off and land. It is designed “to carry up to four passengers over congested megacities to important destinations such as airports or train stations in a fast, affordable and environmentally friendly way,” Airbus says.

The innovative four-ducted propeller configuration significantly contributes to safety and low acoustic footprint.

“We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator” CityAirbus chief engineer, Marius Bebesel, commented.

The full-scale demonstrator will be tested on ground initially. In the first half of the coming year the development team expects to reach the “power on” milestone, meaning that all motors and electric systems will be switched on for the first time. The first flight is scheduled for the end of 2018. In the beginning, the test aircraft will be remotely piloted, later on a test pilot will be on board.

CityAirbus will be designed to carry up to four passengers on fixed routes with a cruising speed of 120 km/h. It will be initially operated by a pilot to ease certification and public acceptance, paving the way to what Airbus calls “future fully-autonomous operations”. Pilotless flight, in other words.

Edited by Peter Needham

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