If the idea of boarding a pilot-less plane makes you panic, the future of air travel may concern you. Just yesterday, Boeing successfully completed a controlled takeoff, hover, and landing of its unmanned passenger air vehicle prototype.
The inaugural flight tested the prototype’s autonomous functions and ground control systems, according to Boeing. Subsequent test flights will check forward and wing-borne flight and the transition between vertical and forward-flight modes.
“In one year, we have progressed from a 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.”
The autonomous aircraft, which takes off and lands vertically and is powered by an electric propulsion system, was designed and developed in partnership with Boeing NeXt and Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences. At 30 feet long and 28 feet wide, it can fly up to 50 miles.
“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” said John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences. “Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.”
Boeing NeXt also is developing an unmanned electric cargo aircraft that can carry up to 500 pounds. That prototype completed an indoor flight last year and will begin testing outdoors this year.
“Boeing was there when the aviation industry was born and in our second century, we will unlock the potential of the urban air mobility market,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Boeing NeXt. “From building air vehicles to airspace integration, we will usher in a future of safe, low-stress mobility in cities and regions around the world.”