BERLIN, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Europe's largest aerospace company Airbus has launched a testing project for an electrical-powered passenger aircraft drone in the German city of Ingolstadt on Monday.
The so-called City-Airbus, presented by Airbus as a life-sized demonstration model for the first time, is designed for urban transport and can carry four people over a distance of up to 50 km. The City-Airbus is set to be tested on the airfield in Manching near Ingolstadt starting in the middle of the year.
"Looks pretty cool, now it just has to fly," commented Germany's minister of transport Andreas Scheuer, during the presentation of the Airbus test project on Monday.
As part of the European research program Urban Air Mobility (UAM), several companies and institutes are researching and testing urban passenger drones in Ingoldstadt, including the technical university of Ingolstadt, the Fraunhofer research institute as well as Ingolstadt-based car manufacturer Audi.
Other German car manufacturers have started their own research. Daimler is cooperating with the startup Volocopter and recently announced to test a similar autonomous passenger aircraft at Germany's largest airport in Frankfurt.
In February, German Transport Minister Scheuer announced a 15 million euros (16.9 million U.S. dollars) governmental funding program for the development and testing of drones and aircraft for urban transportation. The aim of the project was to promote innovative aviation concepts and applications in Germany, according to the German transportation ministry (BMVI).
"We want to bring drones and flying taxis from the laboratory into the air," said Scheuer while adding that such aircraft would be the "takeoff into a new dimension of mobility" and a "huge opportunity" for local authorities, companies and start-ups that would already "driving development very concretely and successfully".
However, Europe's largest aircraft manufacturer Airbus is not expecting the necessary legal regulations for urban passenger aircraft to be adopted in Europe before 2025. "Only then can air taxis be used commercially," said Gregor von Kursell, press spokesman of Airbus.