A year ago, Boeing had what they considered to be a theoretical design with their driverless aircraft, but the prototype was put to the test Tuesday at Aurora’s headquarters in Manassas, Va.
Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing subsidiary, developed the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which succeeded in its first lift off, the Seattle Times reported.
Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop said, “In one year, we have progressed from a theoretical design to a flying prototype. Boeing will leverage its decades of aviation expertise to create an air mobility technology that’s “safe, innovative and responsible.”
Watch the video of the launch below:
The Boeing prototype is battery powered, 30 feet in length and 28 feet in width.
It has a 50-mile flying range with adjustable propellers and wings, giving it the ability to fly forward and to hover, CNBC News reported.
John Langford, Aurora’s president and CEO said, “This is what revolution looks like. The key to the technology will be autonomy — the aircraft is intended to fly itself, using sensors and artificial-intelligence software to avoid obstacles and other flying vehicles as it delivers passengers.”
Langford said Boeing’s technology will “make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.”
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Future flight tests will be scheduled and include more sophisticated engineering perspectives.
“This successful flight test is a tremendous step forward, taking aerial ridesharing from a vision to the skies in less than two years since Uber Elevate was first formed,” said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, which has partnered with Boeing to make airborne ride sharing a reality.
Uber’s airborne ride sharing product, Uber Air, is expected to be ready for ride sharing first in Dallas in 2023, with LA following shortly after.
Boeing Chairman Dennis Muilenburg said, “The air taxi revolution is happening now and it’s going to accelerate over the next five years and ramp up even more beyond that. Traffic in dense urban areas is going to quickly go from two dimensions to three dimensions. Today, 25 percent of the world’s commute times are greater than 90 minutes. Think about the time savings that are available when you go to three dimensions.”
Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group and an expert in aviation, projected, “Such urban mobility technology “is decades away from readiness. The costs will be way higher than planned. Utilization, as a result, will be much lower than anticipated.”
Boeing isn’t alone when it comes to air taxis. Other companies like European jet maker Airbus have also tested prototypes successfully.
Boeing is also working on a driverless cargo vehicle that will be fully electric and have the capability to move as much as 500 pounds. The cargo vehicle has been tested for flight indoors and later this year will undergo outdoor testing.