Boeing’s autonomous prototype completes its first test flight in Manassas, Virginia on January 22. The aircraft, also known as a passenger air vehicle (PAV), completed a controlled takeoff, hover, and landing. The flight was intended to test the autonomous functions and ground control systems of the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Aurora Flight Sciences
This PAV was developed by Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences as part of Boeing NeXt. NeXt is a division of the company that is focusing on urban air mobility and development. “This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” said John Langford, president, and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences. “Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean, and safe urban air mobility possible.”
The eVTOL Design
The PAV measures 30 feet long, 28 feet wide, and has a maximum range of 50 miles. It utilizes propulsion in order to achieve hover and forward flight. Power distributes to the multi-blade propulsor at the rear of the aircraft. After, there are eight smaller rotors on beams under the wings create lift during low-speed operations. “In one year, we have progressed from conceptual design to a flying prototype,” said Boeing Chief Technology Officer, Greg Hyslop. “Boeing’s expertise and innovation have been critical in developing aviation as the world’s safest and most efficient form of transportation, and we will continue to lead with a safe, innovative and responsible approach to new mobility solutions.”
Future for Boeing
This accomplishment is a huge milestone for Boeing because they are among the first to successfully design and fly an electric or hybrid commercial aircraft. In the future, flights will test forward, wing-bourne flight, as well as transitions between vertical and forward flight modes. Boeing NeXt is also developing an unmanned, fully electric cargo air vehicle (CAV). This aircraft is expected to transport up to 500 pounds, and has been successfully flown indoors already! Aurora Flight Sciences is one of a few companies that have partnered with Uber to develop an aerial taxi service. This concept will operate under the company’s forthcoming “Uber Air” which is expected to launch in 2023. This means that they are on the cusp of major breakthroughs in the next few years to come!