Round-Up City new testing ground for ‘Uber of the Skies': Jetson’s-style personal unmanned aircraft

August 2017 article, CUJ

PENDLETON – The future of traveling in large cities could be born in Pendleton. Project Vahana will arrive at the unmanned aircraft system test range in mid-August and will begin test flights in November. UAS Manager Darryl Abling says that means the Round-Up City will be the proving ground for what is being billed as the Uber of the skies.

“Project Vahana is a Jetson’s-style personal transportation unmanned aircraft,” he said. “It’s a 2,000-pound electric vehicle, takes off vertically, transitions to horizontal flight, and then will land vertically.

Abling says Vahana is designed to relieve traffic congestion that clogs the streets of big cities where traveling a couple of miles by car can take longer than an hour. “These vehicles can come, they can land in a parking lot or a heliport, pick up people. Fly across town and get there within five minutes instead of a multiplehour commute,” he said.

Abling likened the craft to being like George Jetson taking his son Leroy to school.

“We seek to help enable truly vertical cities by opening up urban airways in a predictable and controlled manner,” Project Vahana, a division of A3 by Airbus states on its website. “We believe that full automation will allow us to achieve higher safety by minimizing human error. Our aircraft will follow predetermined flight paths, with only minor deviations if obstacle avoidance is needed. We believe this mode of operation will be compatible with future airspace management systems and will allow more aircraft to share the sky.”

This story originally appeared in CUJ.