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Vahana shows off video of flying car’s first flight

Vahana, the Airbus-backed venture that’s developing a fleet of electric-powered air taxis, shared the results of its first flight test amid the prairies of eastern Oregon three weeks ago. But now there’s video showing the Alpha One octocopter landing on its airstrip at the Pendleton UAS Test Range.

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Uber CEO and Elon Musk clash over flying cars

Musk and Khosrowshahi
Elon Musk and Dara Khosrowshahi differ over flying cars vs. tunnels. (Photos via Twitter)

Pop up some more popcorn: Billionaire Elon Musk has gotten himself into another CEO vs. CEO challenge, this time with Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi over air taxis.

Uber and many other companies are working on electric-powered, flying vehiclesthat could carry passengers autonomously between landing pads, circumventing traffic jams. Uber has said it could start testing what are basically flying cars by 2020in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai.

Khosrowshahi — who left Bellevue, Wash.-based Expedia last year to become Uber’s CEO — is sold on the idea. Musk isn’t. Instead, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is partial to tunnels that let cars or electric-powered pods zip beneath surface roads. Musk’s tunneling venture, The Boring Company, is involved in experimental projects in the L.A. area as well as Chicago and Baltimore-Washington, D.C.

Other ventures, Virgin Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, are following up on Musk’s Hyperloop concept for near-supersonic travel through low-pressure tubes.

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Vahana air taxi makes first test flight in Oregon

Vahana flight
Vahana’s Alpha One air-taxi prototype flies over a test range in eastern Oregon. (Vahana Photo)

This week marked a milestone for Airbus Ventures’ Vahana team, which is developing a self-flying, electric-powered air taxi — also known as a flying car.

Vahana’s 20-foot-wide Alpha One prototype executed its first test flight at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range in eastern Oregon, rising to a height of 16 feet (5 meters) during 53 seconds in the air on Jan. 31.

Another test flight came a day later, Vahana project leader Zach Lovering reported in a Medium posting.

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Airbus’ A3 advanced-projects division were in attendance, along with the full Vahana team, Lovering said.

“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,” he said in a news release.

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Joby Aviation wins $100M boost for flying cars

Joby air taxi
Concept art shows a possible design for Joby Aviation’s air taxi. (Joby Aviation Illustration)

California-based Joby Aviation says it has secured $100 million in Series B financing to take its all-electric passenger aircraft into pre-production and regulatory certification.

Intel Capital led the investment round, which also includes Singapore-based EDBI, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Allen & Company AME Cloud Ventures, Ron Conway, Capricorn Investment Group, 8VC, Sky Dayton and Paul Sciarra. Joby also revealed a previously unsecured Series A round, led by Capricorn in 2016, which brings total funding to $130 million.

Founded by inventor JoeBen Bevirt, Joby is working to build a five-seat air taxi that will be 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing, and fly 150 miles on a charge. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that a prototype for the vehicle, nicknamed “Rachel,” is undergoing flight testing at Bevirt’s private airfield in Northern California.

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Erik Lindbergh unveils VerdeGo air taxi venture

VerdeGo Aero in flight
An artist’s conception shows VerdeGo Aero’s air taxi over Rio de Janeiro. (Verdego Aero Illustration)

A new entrant in the market for electric-powered air taxis is getting a boost from one of aviation’s oldest family names: Erik Lindbergh, the grandson of pioneering pilot Charles Lindbergh, is announcing the formation of a venture called VerdeGo Aero.

VerdeGo Aero is headquartered at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s MicaPlex incubator in Daytona, Fla., but the younger Lindbergh provides a strong Seattle-area connection. He’s lived on Bainbridge Island for decades, and serves on the board of directors for Raisbeck Aviation High School near Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Lindbergh serves as president of VerdeGo, which is developing a hybrid-electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft that can be flown autonomously or by a pilot.

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Flying car makes itself at home in Oregon

Vahana flying car
Airbus’ Vahana air taxi is set up for testing inside a hangar at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range Mission Control and Innovation Center in eastern Oregon. (Vahana Photo)

Call it a flying car, or an air taxi, or a pilotless passenger aircraft: Whatever it is, Airbus’ Vahana aircraft is ready for flight tests in eastern Oregon after making the trek from the California shop where it was created.

We reported that Vahana was in the Pacific Northwest last week, but in today’s Medium posting, project leader Zach Lovering shares a travelogue as well as pictures showing the journey from the Airbus-backed venture’s headquarters in Santa Clara, known as “The Nest,” to the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range Mission Control and Innovation Center.

Flight tests are expected to begin within the next few weeks at Pendleton’s aerial test range, with the blessing of the Federal Aviation Administration. Vahana is designed to be an all-electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing, autonomously controlled air vehicle with a battery range of 100 kilometers (62 miles). Once it enters service, passengers would use smartphone apps to book rides.

It’s one of many concepts for a new breed of aerial vehicle that are generically called “flying cars” or “air taxis,” even though most of them are nothing like the roadable, flyable vehicles that were dreamt of going back to the 1950s.

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Uber’s flying-car program gets a lift from NASA

Boarding an Uber air taxi
An illustrative video clip shows a passenger preparing to board an Uber air taxi. (Uber via YouTube)

Thanks to a lift from NASA, Uber says it’ll be testing its flying-car prototypes in Los Angeles as well as Dubai and Dallas-Fort Worth in 2020.

The UberAir transport system will take advantage of the unmanned aerial vehicle traffic management system, or UTM, which is being developed by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other partners.

Uber and NASA have signed a Space Act Agreement to formalize their partnership, Jeff Holden, Uber Technologies’ chief product officer, said today at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

“We need a foundational reboot of the airspace system,” Holden said. “With NASA’s cooperation, we’ll work with the FAA, airports, we’ll be able to actually introduce this quickly and grow it into a completely new, very autonomous air transport system.”

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Uber will bring flying cars to Dallas and Dubai

Uber concept for flying cars
http://www.geekwire.com/2017/uber-flying-car-2020-dallas-dubai/

Uber has been talking about flying cars for months, but today the ride-sharing company fleshed out its plan to become a flight-sharing company in 2020.

“We actually get to live in this era of flying cars,” Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer, said today at the first-ever Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas. “I hate that term, by the way, but we’ll have to live with it.”

The Dallas-Fort Worth region in Texas and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates have been targeted as the pilot cities for the Uber Elevate Network, Holden said. Eventually, the company sees urban aviation as a service that can roll out to the hundreds of cities that Uber serves around the world.

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Kitty Hawk’s flying car looks like a flying raft

Kitty Hawk prototype
The prototype Kitty Hawk Flyer takes to the air. (Kitty Hawk via YouTube)

Kitty Hawk, the hush-hush flying car venture backed by Google billionaire co-founder Larry Page, unveiled the first working prototype of its all-electric Flyer today – but this one is more suited for a dock than a garage.

The single-seat vehicle looks like a cross between a Jet Ski watercraft and a scaled-up octocopter, with a couple of floats attached to the bottom.

“As you can see it’s a bit rough around the edges,” Kitty Hawk said on its website, “but we were so excited to show you its capabilities that we didn’t want to wait until we finished its design. The consumer version will be available by the end of this year.”

Kitty Hawk said the finished Flyer “will have a different design.” But like the prototype, it’ll be classified as an ultralight and won’t require a pilot’s license to operate. Kitty Hawk expects it to win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for recreational flying over fresh water in uncongested areas.

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