A CityAirbus flying taxi model, developed by Airbus SE, on display Le Bourget, in Paris, France. (Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg)

Airbus Steps Up Push for Flying Taxis, On-Demand Helicopters

(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE is creating a division to oversee futuristic transport options such as flying taxis and on-demand helicopters in a sign the European planemaker is going on the offensive against tech providers and startups encroaching in the market.

The manufacturer named company veteran Eduardo Dominguez Puerta, 40, on Monday to head its newly formed Urban Air Mobility unit. Puerta helped start the firm’s innovation center in Silicon Valley, where he served as chief operating officer.

Projects that will be overseen by the division include an autonomous flying cab prototype called CityAirbus, an electric flying taxi named Vahana and Voom, billed by Airbus as a premier on-demand helicopter booking platform. Ride-hailing app creator Uber Technologies Inc. and startup Kitty Hawk, backed by Google’s co-founder Larry Page, are also working to develop airborne taxis.

Last week at a technology conference in Paris, Airbus also unveiled an electric drone shuttle named Pop.up that it’s developing with German carmaker Audi.

“We now need to gear up, build partnerships with various stakeholders, including air safety agencies, and define and conduct pilot projects,” Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said Monday in a statement. The new unit will be “open for cooperation with other vehicle manufacturers.”

Earlier this month, Airbus appointed Grazia Vittadini as chief technology officer, succeeding Paul Eremenko, who left at the end of 2017 after 1 1/2 years at the company. Eremenko, a former Google executive, was one of the developers of the Vahana and Voom projects.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.