Boeing's Autonomous Aircraft Completes Maiden Flight

Ciarán Daly

January 23, 2019

2 Min Read

VIRGINIA - Boeing successfully completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype yesterday in Manassas, Virginia, in a giant leap forward for the next generation of AI-powered mobility solutions.

Powered by an electric propulsion system, the PAV prototype is designed for fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing, with a range of up to 50 miles. A mere conceptual design one year ago, the prototype this week performed a successful takeoff, hover, and landing during the test flight, which was intended to test the vehicle's autonomous functions and ground control systems. Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition between vertical and forward-flight modes - one of the biggest engineering challenges for any high-speed VTOL aircraft.

"This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy," said John Langford, president and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing subsidiary which helped design and develop the vehicle. "Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean, and safe urban air mobility possible."

Boeing NeXt, which leads the company's urban air mobility efforts, will continue testing to advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation.

"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."

The test flight is part of Boeing's push towards the responsible introduction of a new mobility ecosystem, in which autonomous and piloted air vehicles can safely co-exist. The Boeing NeXt portfolio also includes an unmanned fully electric cargo air vehicle, designed to transport up to 500 pounds and other urban, regional, and global mobility platforms.

"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 transport, and we will continue to lead with a safe, innovative and responsible approach to new mobility solutions."

Source: Boeing 

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