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Robo Air Taxi Makes First Flight At Pendleton Airport

Airbus A^3
A prototype of a self-flying air taxi designed by an Airbus subsidiary made its first flight at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton last Wednesday.

The Airbus subsidiary behind a self-flying, battery-powered passenger drone says the prototype has made its first flight at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton.

According to the Airbus Vahana Project blog, the pilotless single-seat aircraft lifted off vertically, ascended about 16 feet before slowly descending and landing. The short-but-sweet first flight last Wednesday lasted all of 53 seconds.

Since then, the electric shuttlecraft has flown more. The next milestone will be transitioning the tilting wings and eight propellers to horizontal flight and following pre-set routes over Pendleton’s unmanned aircraft test range.

Airbus has said the aircraft certification process should take about three years. The company says a two-passenger variant may eventually be the primary production model for urban commuting and autonomous air taxi markets.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.