Boeing Co said on Wednesday its flying auto prototype hovered briefly in the air during an inaugural test flight, a small but significant step as the world's largest planemaker bids to revolutionize urban transportation and parcel delivery services. Through Aurora, Boeing partnered with Uber back in 2017, in the hopes that the companies could work together to bring urban air taxis to the masses by 2023.
Boeing's Autonomous Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) prototype is shown during an inaugural test flight, in Manassas, Virginia, the United States, Jan. 22, 2019.
Boeing has built a flying auto, and this week, the company says it passed a big test: it actually got into the air.
Progress has been fast: Boeing's NeXt division fired up the air taxi concept only past year and acquired Aurora Flight Sciences in October 2018. On paper, Boeing has created a fully-autonomous passenger aircraft that's capable of true vertical take off and landing (VTOL). The 30-feet-long and 28-feet-wide prototype will move next to forward-flight mode, to be tested in future flights, the Chicago-based plane maker said.
"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", he said.
It's also capable of autonomous flight - and, yes, the first flight was done without a person on board, using the air taxi's inbuilt control systems from ground control. Aircrafts undergoing development include a cargo air vehicle (CAV) that can carry up to 227 kg of payload and other urban, regional and global mobility platforms. The company didn't say if the model is the one being developed for Uber. The CAV completed its first indoor flight past year and will transition to outdoor flight testing in 2019.
"This is a transformation that is going to happen faster than many of us might have thought a couple years ago", Muilenburg said, "and we are on the leading edge". Everyone is mostly still as far as the test phase right now, launching experimental flights to begin working on kinks enough to take things to the next stage.