When you hear the word “drone,” an image immediately jumps to mind. At this point, thanks to market penetration, I visualize something like a DJI Phantom. You know, a small consumer drone, designed for recreational use. However, the word “drone” actually covers a broad range of equipment, and Airbus believes it “drones” are the solution to today’s “unbearable” traffic problem.

Rush-hour traffic is unbearable for many commuters today – and the problem is growing. By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities, which is 10% more than today. To address this rising concern, Airbus is harnessing its experience to make the dream of all commuters and travellers come true one day: to fly over traffic jams at the push of a button.

Future of urban mobility

In Oregon, SOAR Oregon is testing a new kind of drone from A^3, Airbus’s advanced projects and partnerships outpost located in gridlocked Silicon Valley. What makes this drone different then the DJI Phantom-esq drone described above? The Airbus drone “is a self-piloted flying vehicle being designed to move both cargo or individual passengers.”

SOAR Oregon has landed a contract with Airbus to test a new kind of drone. That means it will be tested at one of the three test ranges in Oregon – Pendleton, Warm Springs and Tillamook. The drone would signify a breakthrough in unmanned aircraft systems.

It is a self-piloted flying vehicle being designed to move both cargo or individual passengers. SOAR Oregon is partnering with Modern Technology Solutions Incorporated in the tests which are aimed at ironing out major risks from the vehicle, according to a news release from MTSI, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

The testing of the vehicle, named Vahana, is expected to culminate with an actual test flight at the end of 2017.

Self-piloted drone will be tested in Oregon

What can we expect from Vahana?

The aircraft … doesn’t need a runway, is self-piloted, and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircraft. Designed to carry a single passenger or cargo.

Welcome to Vahana

If everything goes according to plan, the Vahana will be “the first certified passenger aircraft without a pilot.” How soon could it happen? According to A^3, the Vahana could productizable as early as 2020.